Healthy Leaders


The Skills of the Spiritual Manager

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

This is Part 3 in a series on Spiritual Management
Part 1 – Managers and Leaders: Your Differences Are Your Strengths!
Part 2 – What Do Managers Actually Do?
Part 4 – Leaders and Managers in the Bible
Part 5 – A Healthy Organization Needs Both Leaders and Managers!

The tasks of a spiritual manager are complex and multidimensional and require a range of skills. These necessary skills can be summed up in three categories: conceptual, people and technical.

Conceptual Skills

Conceptual skills involve the cognitive ability to see the organization as a whole and the relationships among its parts. Conceptual skills involve the manager’s thinking, information processing and planning abilities. They involve knowing where one’s department fits into the whole organization and how the organization fits into the broader external environment. These skills involve the ability to “think strategically” – to take the broad, long-term view.

Conceptual skills are needed by all managers but are especially important for managers at the top. They must be able to perceive significant elements in a situation and broad, conceptual patterns.

As managers move up the organizational hierarchy, they must develop conceptual skills or their effectiveness will be severely limited. A top manager who is mired in technical matters rather than thinking strategically will not do well. Many of the responsibilities of top managers, such as decision making, resource allocation, and innovation, require a broad view.

How strong are your conceptual skills?Please consider the following questions and note ideas regarding strengths and weaknesses, as well as your plans for improvement:

  1. When you have a number of tasks to do, can you set priorities and organize the work around the deadlines?
  2. When you are deciding on a particular course of action (such as which languages to study, job to take, special projects to be involved in), do you typically consider the long-term (three years or more) implications of what you choose to do?
  3. When you have a project or assignment to accomplish, do you get into the details rather than the “big picture” issues?
  4. When you are learning something new, do you relate what you are learning to other concepts you have learned elsewhere?
  5. Do you have long-term visions for your ministry, family and other activities? Do you think about these visions carefully and frequently?
  6. Does talking about ideas and concepts get you really passionate and excited?

People Skills

People skills are the manager’s ability to work with and through other people and to work effectively as a group member. These skills are demonstrated in the way a person relates to others, including the ability to encourage, facilitate, coordinate, lead, communicate and resolve conflicts. A manager with good people skills allows others to express themselves without fear of rejection or ridicule and encourages participation. Such a person likes other people and is liked by them. People skills are particularly necessary in a multicultural situation.

Effective managers are cheerleaders, facilitators, coaches and nurturers. They build through people. Strong people skills enable managers to unleash others’ energy and potential, and help them grow as future managers and leaders.

How strong are your people skills? Please consider the following questions and note ideas regarding strengths and weaknesses, as well as your plans for improvement:

  1. Would most people describe you as being a good listener?
  2. When you have a serious disagreement with someone, do you hang in there and talk it out until it is completely resolved?
  3. Do you try to include others in activities or when there are discussions?
  4. When someone makes a mistake, do you immediately want to correct the person and let him know the proper answer or approach?
  5. When you are working on a group project and someone isn’t doing his or her fair share of the work, are you more likely to complain to your friends rather than confronting the individual?
  6. Do projects interest you more than people?

Technical Skills

A technical skill is the understanding of and proficiency in the performance of specific tasks. Such skills include mastery of the methods, techniques and equipment involved in specific functions such as maintenance, technology or finance. These skills also include specialized knowledge, analytical ability and the competent use of tools and techniques to solve problems in that specific area.

Technical skills are particularly important at lower organizational levels. Many managers rise to their first management position by having excellent technical skills. However, technical skills become less important than people and conceptual skills as one’s organizational responsibility increases.

How strong are your technical skills? Please consider the following questions and note ideas regarding strengths and weaknesses, as well as your plans for improvement:

  1. Do you prefer to learn technical or practical things rather than those things involving concepts and ideas?
  2. Would you rather sit in front of your computer than spend a lot of time with people?
  3. Do you try to be efficient with your time when talking with someone, rather than worry about the other person’s needs, so that you can get on with your real work? 

The degree of each skill necessary at different levels of an organization may vary. For example, higher level managers usually need conceptual skills more than they need technical skills, while lower level managers need technical skills more than conceptual ones.

However, all managers must possess skills in each of these important areas to function effectively.

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