Management vs. Leadership: The manager administers; the leader innovates.


In my article “Should church leaders manage or lead?” I listed Warren Bennis’ 12 contrasts between leadership and management. This series will analyze those 12 and see how they fit in realm of church leadership. The first is “The manager administers; the leader innovates.”

Lets look at innovation first…because that is the one that scares us as Christians. To innovate is to introduce something new or to change something that is established. So innovation sounds like a bad thing. Think Revelation 22:18-19 or Deuteronomy 4:2. Do not add or take away! That is the general rule. Does this mean we should not innovate?  Consider the Latin origin “innovatus” which means to renew or alter. Renewal is the act of restoring or replenishing; to revive or reestablish. Is that not our job as Christians? Are we not to be at work restoring those who have fallen away from God? Replenishing hope in our land? Reviving and reestablishing relationships with The Creator?  Sometimes that is aided by innovations that help us reach our world and help our world reach God.

I think of Paul and the unknown god of Acts 17:16-34.  Paul doesn’t just start preaching, he uses an innovative approach. He goes to THEIR place of meeting, not a church building that has my special church’s name on it.  Then he complements them on being very religious (flattery).  He also studies their objects of worship; he did not dismiss them because they were different or even dead wrong. Instead, he used them to evaluate the people and get a better understanding of their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

Alter is the other part of the definition. Can we as Christians make alterations? Close study reveals the answer to be, “yes.”  Innovation examples could include, early Christians meeting in the temple courts as well as homes, warehouses, and apartment buildings. Eventually they began building structures for church assemblies and church work. They also constructed baptisteries where water was scarce or dangerous (I’m reminded of a story of a Deacon who’s job it was to scare off the crocodiles for a baptisms in a river in Africa – talk about a need to be innovative).  I can imagine early arguments against baptisteries being surrounded around questions of validity or authority. Are baptisms valid if the person is baptized in water that does not flow freely from the grace of God?  Does man have the authority to collect water for the purpose of baptisms?

Many times the advocates for NOT being innovative forget that the Church as they see and experience it now, is NOT the way church has always looked or acted. Innovation is what got you the church you attend now.

Administering refers to the action of management or to have executive charge of, to bring into use or operation, or to make application of.  Each of these refer to the enacting or maintaining an existing system or process. One administers the law, administers justice, or administers medicine. Origins of this word come from the Latin administrare, which means to assist, carry out, or manage the affairs of. All of these have the idea of assisting or maintaining something that is already in place. The first thing that comes to mind is Acts chapter 6 where we see the selection of deacons. These men administered the distribution of food to widows. They assisted with and managed the process. While this is a part of the work of servant leaders, it is not the totality of what church leaders are charged with doing. Church leaders (elders, ministers, etc) need to relieve themselves of the types of duties that would cause them to “neglect the ministry of the word of God” (Acts 6:2). Give the management of church tasks over to the deacons so you may “give [your] attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). The ministry of the word is not about budgets, carpet, and building projects. Be like Paul, who innovated so he might “win as many as possible” 1 Cor 9:19.  

In my next article I will share with you one of the most spectacular acts of church leadership I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime.
Yes, it was that good!!!


Coming soon to the Management vs. Leadership series:

  1. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  2. The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  3. The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  4. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  5. The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  6. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  7. The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  8. The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  9. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  10. The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  11. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.