Should church leaders manage or lead?


When comparing management with leadership there is a noticeable difference. In a Harvard Business Review blog article John Kotter said, “Management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well.”  Management is more about keeping a process or group of processes running.  It does so by focusing on administration, by asking how and when things need to be done, and making sure things are done right.  It helps ensure the purpose if the organization continues to be met and done so within budget and in a way that maintains the organizations reputation.

In the same article Kotter says leadership, “is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change.” Leadership involves being innovating, asking what and why and evaluating if the organization is doing the right things.

Leadership and management are not the same. Leadership generally keeps a big picture and considers the future while focusing on people and concepts. Management sticks with known facts, maintains control, supervises, focuses on tasks, sets policies, and develops plans.         In general management maintains and supports a current state of operational expectations, while leadership looks beyond the current state, to what an organization can be, would be, and should be.

Warren Bennis (On becoming a leader: the leadership classic) best summed up the differences by the following list:

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.

  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

  • The manager maintains; the leader develops.

  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.

  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.

  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.

  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

So what does this mean in the realm of Christian leadership? Should church leaders be more of the manager type or more of the leader type?  I think it is a little of both and depends on the situation.   

Where do you see yourself as a leader?  Are you leading….or managing?

Those are NOT coke machines, it is a modern super computer.

Those are NOT coke machines, it is a modern super computer.

Grace Hopper who I think is the oldest and longest serving woman in the history of the United States Navy (serving till she was almost 80 years old) is quoted as saying,

“You don’t manage people; you manage things. You lead people.”