Management vs Leadership

Lately I’ve been pretty obsessed with issues surrounding leadership. As the seminary I’m graduating from this coming weekend takes on the task of fulfilling its mission to “educate leaders for Christian communities,” some questions have been raised that are simply just fascinating, not because I’m interested in being a part of the revisioning process at Luther Seminary, but because it forces me to think of the implications of my own attitudes towards leadership in context.

One of those issues is the issue of leadership vs management. First, it’s widely understood that they are linked; they both have intersection points. However, what most fail to grasp is that they are distinctly different things. I’ve heard it said one way by Peter Drucker: “Management is about doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.” In short, management is about planning and execution; making sure things happen successfully and efficiently to produce a result. Leadership is fundamentally a different thing. I’ve said this in previous posts, but leadership is primarily about integrity and character; relationship and self-differientiation.

Here’s my question though, do we usually train and expect people to be strictly good managers by default?”

We ask for and say we want leaders….however, if you think of most job descriptions that are tabbed as “leadership” positons, what they are looking for are good managers, people who can get the job done and get it done right. Additionally, we train and teach people skills necessary for good management, passing them off as leadership.” I read a recent blog post about managers and it contains some descriptors about what leadership is, and what management/supervision is.

Here’s the partial list from the blog….

Planning to get the work done
How work will be broken down into steps
How much time each step will take, the sequence of the steps, and what resources are needed
Monitoring the plan to see that the work goes according to plan
Taking corrective action on anything that deviates from the plan in an unconstructive way.

Be a role model
Accept responsibility
Offer creative ideas for change
Genuinely respect people
See through others’ eyes, meet their needs
Do your job with consistent excellence
Make people you work with more successful
Make difficult decisions that make a difference
Place priority in developing others

Where do you fit with respect to these descriptors? I think for most, if they’re truly honest, they function more as managers than they do leaders. That in itself isn’t a bad thing either; we need both, and a measure of each is needed in order to be successful in either role. But here’s the rub: Are you functioning as a manager when the role/position requires leadership, or vice versa?

I’ll extend that into the contextual reality I mentioned above: educational institutions. Some state they are training people for leadership, but what they’re really doing is training people to be managers. They’re teaching skills and tools to complete tasks efficiently and successfully when they should be forming character, integrity, and the ability to relate and communicate well.

I think the leader versus manager issue is important for those at the head of their organizations, groups, and institutions today: which way are you functioning, and is that really what the situation and role calls for? Self-reflection and self-awareness are always key, and so I leave all this up to you to wrestle with, whether you’re a pastor, church leader, or head coach of an athletic team!

Your discernment on leadership is where I believe, both faith and life intersect most fully for folks like you! God is working in the midst of discernment over such things, because they lead to revelation of vocation. As Fredrich Buechner has said, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” It begs the question, “Is this the place where God is calling me to use my skills and be my authentic self?”

Blessings along the journey!


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Filed under Leadership, Wrestling Devotions & Reflections

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