June 14, 2009 Tony Morgan

Leading vs. Managing

I read Anne Jackson’s new book, Mad Church Disease, a few months ago. This quote from Wayne Cordeiro, the senior pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Oahu, Hawaii keeps reverberating through my brain. In describing some practices he changed as a result of dealing with ministry burnout, he offered this:

“I’ve learned that God has made me to be a leader, not a ‘manager.’ I was pulled in to ‘managing’ for a few years as my main course. That diminished my leadership immune system, and I became susceptible to contagious maladies such as discouragement, exasperation, and being demotivated by others.”

There is a distinction between leading and managing. They are two entirely different roles. Both are valuable to an organization, but rarely is a person gifted to both lead and manage. They are typically wired up to do one or the other.

In their book First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman defined both roles like this:

Managers – “Great managers look inward. They look inside the company, into each individual, into the differences in style, goals, needs, and motivation of each person. These differences are small, subtle, but great managers need to pay attention to them. These subtle differences guide them toward the right way to release each person’s unique talents into performance.”

Leaders – “Great leaders look outward. They look out at the competition, out at the future, out at alternative routes forward. They focus on broad patterns, finding connections, cracks, and then press home their advantage where the resistance is weakest. They must be visionaries, strategic thinkers, activators. When played well, this is, without doubt, a critical role. But it doesn’t have much to do with the challenge of turning one individual’s talents into performance.”

That’s how Buckingham and Coffman described the two roles in marketplace organizations, but the Bible also distinguishes these two rules. The spiritual gift of leadership found in Romans 12:8 is very different from the spiritual gift of management (or administration) found in I Corinthians 12:28. Few people have both of these gifts, but both are needed within a healthy church body.

The point here isn’t to value one of these gifts over the other. (That would be a fruitless exercise because both are needed for a church or any organization to function properly.) However, I think it’s essential to identify how we are gifted and to also consider those we are responsible for in our ministry roles. If we are trying to be a manager when we’re actually a leader, we will be unfulfilled and face ministry burnout like Wayne described. Likewise, if we’re forced into a leadership role when we’re actually a manager, we will face the same challenges.

So, here are some questions to consider, pray about and discuss with your team:

  • Are you a leader or manager? (How do you know?)
  • Are you in a role that allows you to lead or manage according to your gifts?
  • Do you know whether or not the people working for you are leaders or managers?
  • Are they serving in roles that fit their giftedness?
  • Have you defined what roles in your organization need leaders and which ones need managers?
  • When one of those roles are open, are you trying to find the person who is best gifted to lead or manage?

I consider this a big topic that churches, generally, have failed to address. I challenge you to prayerfully consider this in the coming days for yourselves and your teammates. The health of your ministry, both personal and corporate, is at stake. And, while you’re at it, invite your ministry team to press into this conversation as well. Take a staff meeting to discuss the differences and challenge your team to make sure they are in a position that best reflects the way God created them…whether they are leaders, managers or neither. God wants you serving where he designed you to be serving; to do otherwise is to disobey God.

Are you staring ministry burnout in the face? Is it because you’re not doing what God created you to do?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
, ,
Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...

No Trackbacks.