Management vs. Leadership: The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

It is time to get back to writing.  I’ve been away for some time due to some personal reasons and am looking forward to getting back to writing.

In my article “Should church leaders manage or lead?” I listed Warren Bennis’ 12 contrasts between leadership and management.  The second is “The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.”

Consider the difference between a business owner and a business manager. The owner is the original, the idea person, the one who started everything in motion. The manager is the one who is put in place to oversee the day-to-day routines of the business to ensure they are all operating properly.  These routines can include personnel schedules, training, opening and closing, and a wide variety of other functions.  They work off a checklist of dos and don’ts. It is the manager’s primary responsibility to make the owners vision come to life.

Way back in 1988 David A. Van Seters and Richard H.G. Field said, “The new leader must be visionary, willing to take risks, and highly adaptable to change.” Part of being original is the ability to do things differently.  Michael Jackson was a musician like many others before him. However, he is seen as an original.

It gets tricky when looking at church leadership.  Christians are disciples of Jesus. A disciple is a follower.  Does that mean that church leaders must only copy what Jesus did?  Yes and no.  We are to copy Jesus as it relates to his love of the Father and his love of people.  How we live our lives and how we treat others should emulate the personality of Jesus. It is the character of Jesus that is important.  It is note worthy to recognize that we do not live in the same time, culture, economy, and political world that Jesus lived in.  Therefore there are many aspects of what Jesus did that should not be copied today.

  • To be a copy we would need to dress as Jesus dressed.
  • To be an original we would need to dress in a way that helps us relate to others.
  • To be a copy we would need to speak the same language Jesus spoke.
  • To be an original we need to speak the language that helps us communicate the hope we have.
  • To be a copy we would need to travel as Jesus traveled (who wants to ride a donkey?)
  • To be an original we need to travel in ways that efficiently help us connect with our world.

You get the point.

“Doing things the way we have always done them” in church leadership is not the right answer and is not an appropriate response.  Contrary to popular belief, the way we do things today is not they way they have always been done.  Imagine how different our view of Jesus would be if the only miracle he did was to change water into wine. Over and over, the same miracle.  When the royal official in John 4:46-53 came to Jesus and asked him to visit his son and heal him, Jesus did not say, “Fill six stone water jars to the rim and I will change that water to wine.”  After Lazarus’ death Jesus did not say, “bring me some water that I may change it to wine.”   In these cases Jesus did not do the same thing. He did what was beneficial to others.  

Doing things the way we have always done them is really saying, “it is uncomfortable to do things differently so let’s not change.”  This over used chiche’ comes to mind, “The definition of insanity is…”

What changes have you seen that positively impacted the church?
What same-old-things do you see that could benefit from some originality?