Healthy Leaders


What Do Managers Actually Do?

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

This is Part 2 in a series on Spiritual Management
Part 1 – Managers and Leaders: Your Differences Are Your Strengths!
Part 3 – The Skills of the Spiritual Manager
Part 4 – Leaders and Managers in the Bible
Part 5 – A Healthy Organization Needs Both Leaders and Managers!

While leaders are generally responsible for the big picture, managers are particularly responsible for a little piece of the puzzle – to see that it moves forward effectively and efficiently.

Spiritual managers have roles that relate to people, information and decision making. Each role represents activities that spiritual managers undertake to accomplish their responsibilities, as they help the organization as a whole fulfill its purpose. Each managerial activity can be explained in terms of at least one role, although many activities involve more than one role. The relative importance of each role may also vary from one kind of manager to the next.

Although it is necessary to separate the various components of the manager’s responsibilities to understand his different roles and activities, it is important to remember that the real task of management cannot be practiced as a set of independent parts; all the roles interact in the real world of spiritual management – often chaotically so! Thus, the spiritual manager who only communicates never accomplishes much, while the manager who only “does” things ends up doing them all alone.

People Roles

These relate to relationships with others, and require “people skills” on the part of the spiritual manager, as well as communication abilities and a heart that genuinely cares for people.

As leaders, spiritual managers are responsible for looking at the big picture of the organization and making their “piece of the puzzle” function as an integrated whole in the pursuit of its basic purpose. Consequently, they must envision and strategize regarding the future, give guidance to those they are responsible for, ensure they are motivated, and create favorable conditions to help them fulfill their purposes. This role pervades all spiritual management activities, and includes mobilizing, training, directing, praising, correcting, promoting and dismissing.

Acting as shepherds, spiritual managers must give pastoral care to those under their responsibility:

  1. Praying for them.
  2. Concern for specific personal and family needs.
  3. Seeing they fulfill their calling in God.
  4. Seeing they have strong friendships and ministry relationships.
  5. Support in times of crisis.
  6. General care-taking. Visitation, encouragement, basic counseling, etc.

Spiritual managers, as liaisons, must establish and maintain a web of relationships with individuals and groups outside of their area of responsibility, so that the whole organization stays integrated and cohesive. These information links will exist both inside and outside the organization.

Spiritual managers also represent their units as figureheads, and fulfill necessary social and legal duties on behalf of everyone they’re responsible for. For example, they will sign documents (e.g., expense authorizations, contracts), preside at certain meetings and ceremonial events, and represent their unit before outsiders. The manager must participate in these activities even though they are usually of marginal relevance to their core purposes as managers.

Information Roles

These roles describe the activities used to develop and maintain an information network. Spiritual managers spend a lot of time talking to people in various contexts.

Spiritual managers need to know what is going on – both inside their organizational subunit as well as in the organization as a whole and outside the organization. As monitors, they continually seek information from a variety of sources – both systematically and opportunistically. They analyze this information to discover problems and opportunities, and to develop an understanding of outside events and internal processes.

Spiritual managers have special access to sources of information not available to subordinates. Some of this information is factual and some of it regards the preferences of the organizational leaders. They must act as disseminators of this information. Some of it must be passed on to subordinates, either in its original form or after interpretation and editing by the manager.

As spokespersons, spiritual managers are also obliged to transmit information and express value statements to people outside their subunit. They must report to whomever they are accountable to. They will also sometimes represent their subunit before outsiders.

Decision Making Roles

These roles pertain to the events about which the spiritual manager must make a choice and take action. These roles often require conceptual as well as people skills.

Spiritual managers are constantly thinking about the future and how to get there. At the grass-roots level of the organization, they are the agents of change. As they become aware of problems they must search for ways to correct them. Moreover, they must seek to continually improve their unit so it can best serve the organization’s future. Good spiritual managers will also mobilize others in the search for new opportunities and improvements.

As disturbance handlers, spiritual managers deal with sudden crises that cannot be ignored, as distinguished from problems that they voluntarily solve to exploit opportunities (change agent role). The crises are caused by unforeseen events, such as conflict among people, moral failure, persecution, the loss of key people, accidents, etc. This role typically requires temporary priority over all others.

Unfortunately, handling disturbances is all that some managers ever do. They go from crisis to crisis, reacting to circumstances. The more accurately a manager can perceive the reality of the crisis, the better he will be able to resist spending all his time consumed by such matters.

The resource allocator role pertains to taking responsibility for allocating resources such as money, people, material, equipment, facilities and services. Spiritual managers must decide how best to use the organization’s resources to attain the desired outcomes. The manager must decide which projects receive budget allocations, which of several people problems to deal with next, and even how to spend his own time.

Conceptual skills are very important here. There are rarely enough resources to go around, so the effective manager must be able to see the big picture – not just his own narrow interests – and prioritize accordingly.

As negotiators, spiritual managers formally negotiate with others, in various contexts (both positive and negative), to attain outcomes for their unit of responsibility. This negotiation may be with the senior leadership of the organization, or with other managers from other subunits, or within their own unit.

Summary of Manager Roles
Category Role Activity
People Roles Leader Direct, encourage, train, counsel and communicate with those under his responsibility.
Shepherd Provide pastoral care to those under his responsibility.
Liaison Establish and maintain information links both inside and outside the organization.
Figurehead Perform official and legal duties on behalf of everyone else.
Information Roles Monitor Seek information to discover problems and opportunities.
Disseminator Forward information internally.
Spokesperson Transmit information externally.
Decision Making Roles Change Agent Initiate improvements projects, identify new ideas, delegate idea responsibilities to others.
Disturbance Handler Deal with crises, resolve conflicts, take corrective action during disputes.
Resource Allocator Schedule, budget, set priorities, decide who gets resources.
Negotiator Represent interests of unit during negotiations with others.

Now rate yourself. For these eleven roles, which two or three are you strongest in? Which two or three are you weakest in? How can you improve?

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