Are you leading or managing?

by Wayne Schwab

  • Managers make what is work better.
  • Leaders take what is and make it into something new.

It is very easy for church leaders to become stuck in managing.  The “new” of God’s New Day in Jesus Christ can become lost in keeping everyone happy.  Easiest to lose is the daily living of the members.

For church leaders, especially clergy, the “delivery point” – the measure of effectiveness or the end product – is not Sunday morning or the prayer life of the members. The “delivery point” is how the members live every day.

The final truth about leadership is that it is shared by everyone, all – leaders and members alike.  So all are responsible for how all live every day.  As the primary leaders and those with the most power to effect change, clergy have a central role in building and supporting member mission – the practice of members being “on mission” each and every day.

Abraham Zaleznik

A breakthrough in leadership theory came in 1977 when Abraham Zaleznik published an article in the Harvard Business Review – “Managers and Leaders:  Are They Different?”  Harvard Business Review,  reprinted in January, 2004.

From HBR’s introduction to the reprint:

The difference between managers and leaders, he wrote, lies in the conceptions they hold, deep in their psyches, of chaos and order. Managers embrace process, seek stability and control, and instinctively try to resolve problems quickly—sometimes before they fully understand a problem’s significance. Leaders, in contrast, tolerate chaos and lack of structure and are willing to delay closure in order to understand the issues more fully.

Zaleznik is a founder of a school thought that integrated leadership and organization studies with psychoanalysis. He was a professor emeritus of leadership at Harvard Business School, one of the few certified psychoanalysts in the United States without a medical degree, and the author of sixteen books and numerous articles.

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