I get asked often about the differences between managers and leaders. I always start the answer with my belief that leadership and management complement each other, and both skills are necessary if the church is to survive. A church that is well-led will not do well without effective management; similarly a church that is well-managed will also not do well without effective leadership.
Is there really a difference between being a manager and being a leader? If so, what are the differences and similarities? John Kotter of Harvard Business School sets out the difference between management and leadership in a Harvard Business Review article:
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 helps you to produce products (programs) and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership.
Leadership is entirely different. It 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 is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.
A peacetime military force can usually survive with good administration and management throughout their hierarchy coupled with good leadership concentrated at the very top. A wartime force, however, needs competent leadership at all levels. No one has yet to figure out how to manage people into battle, they must be led. Leaders must concentrate on the WHAT and managers must concentrate on the HOW for there to be a clear path to victory.
At its essence then, a manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate, while a leader’s job is to inspire, guide, influence, and motivate. The late organizational guru Warren Bennis provided this list of the differences between management and leadership:
- Management Administers… Leadership Innovates
- Management Maintains… Leadership Develops
- Management Is About Systems And Structure… Leadership Is About People
- Management Relies On Control… Leadership Inspires Trust
- Management Supports The Task… Leadership Supplies Perspective
- Management Asks How And When… Leadership Asks What And Why
- Management Imitates… Leadership Originates
- Management Accepts The Status Quo… Leadership Challenges It
- Management Does Things Right… Leadership Does The Right Thing
- Management Compels Employees… Leadership Creates Followers
- Management Focuses On The Bottom Line… Leadership Focuses On The Finish Line
- Management Is Transactional… Leadership Is Transformational
- Management Promotes Process… Leadership Propagates Progress
- Management Deals In Transaction… Leadership Deals In Translation
- Management Fosters Competition… Leadership Fosters Collaboration
Clearly, both disciplines are complimentary to each other, but involve a different set of behaviors and characteristics. At any given time, most church staff possess both management and leadership characteristics, but usually in significantly different proportions. One is no more important than the other, but the most effective churches define and distinguish the differences and hire for both.
Kotter concludes by saying, some people still argue that we must replace management with leadership. This is obviously not so: they serve different, yet essential, functions. We need more superb management. And we need more superb leadership. We need to be able to make our complex organizations reliable and efficient. We need them to jump into the future — the right future — at an accelerated pace, no matter the size of the changes required to make that happen.
Healthy churches understand that leaders lead, and managers manage, and one cannot be substituted for the other. A truly effective church understand the difference between management and leadership, and knows how to consistently maintain the right balance.
Posted on November 1, 2016