In a now famous, Harvard Business Review article, John P. Kotter wrote:
“(Leaders) don’t make plans; they don’t solve problems; they don’t even organize people. What leaders really do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it. Management is about coping with complexity. Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change.” – John P. Kotter - What Leaders Really Do
As the saying goes, managers focus on doing things right. Leaders focus on doing the right things. We need both managers and leaders, but without leaders, we are unlikely to adapt, innovate and multiply impact.
So what are some of the differences between managers and leaders?
One difference is that Managers focus on process. Leaders focus on vision. A manager’s primary concern is execution. That doesn’t mean that leaders don’t care about execution but leaders spend more time focused on vision.
Leadership by definition involves change. If you’re trying to take your church to a preferred future, it won’t happen without change. If you are just keeping things the same, maintaining the status quo, then you are managing.
Another difference between managers and leaders is that Managers focus on organizing whereas Leaders focus on aligning the work of the church with its mission.
Managers make sure that procedures, resources, and people are in the right place at the right time to do things right.
Leaders on the other hand, want to make sure that all those things that are being done are aligned with the mission of the church. Having a mission-focus is an essential element of an effective leader. Aligning all that happens with that mission is the mark of an excellent leader.
Finally, Managers direct and Leaders influence. A manager is in the chain of command and uses their authority to tell people what to do. Even though a leader can tell people what to do, that's not their primary role.
Effective leaders encourage and inspire people to do the right things. True leaders have followers not because they have power but because they help take people outside themselves to something greater to which they want to give their best efforts.
And, of course, faith-based leaders don’t have followers. They inspire people to follow God.
Like I said, we need both managers and leaders. Most of us are some combination of both. But, to the extent that you are a leader, make sure you are focused on where you are headed, that it is aligned with your mission, and that you are inspiring people to give their best effort.
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