It has been said, “When it all is said and done, more gets said than done.” I guess this has been the frustration of millions of leaders since the first tribal chieftain held the first campfire council. It has been my experience that Leaders as a rule have plenty of vision. We love to dream. But learning to take a vision and manage the process toward its completion is something else. So it is all right to ask, even shout the question, “How in the world do you get a vision from the drawing board to the boardroom, and from there to the people who are going to be benefited by it?” The answer is found in the partnership that must be made between Leadership and Management.

Leadership can cast a vision, motivate, even inspire, but management must put the action, materials, and manpower into motion to produce the desired result. Leadership and management are not the same thing, and I think we have yet to understand that in ministry. Therefore, small ministries with big dreams seem to be the best that many can produce. In ministry today we often have truckloads of vision and spoonfuls of management skills. As a result, our impact is negligible at best and destructive at worst, leaving us with our leadership numbers in decline. Why? Because when a visionary leader fails to partner with people who possess management abilities, he quickly overheats and burns out as a result of the flaming passion for his vision and no mechanism by which to bring it to pass.

Leadership and Management…

While both leadership and management are executive functions, leadership is about where you are going, management is about how you get there; leadership is about progress, and management is about performance. We must have them both to achieve, and they must work together and not against each other. How? I’m glad you asked.

The process of leadership in an organization normally involves several steps, including:

  • A foundational set of guiding and defining values.
  • A clear vision that answers the “why do you exist?” question.
  • A mission that answers the “what are you going to do?” question.
  • A strategic plan that answers the “how and when are you going to do it?” questions.

The first three are essentially leadership responsibilities. But the fourth, the strategic plan, is the step where management becomes urgent to the process. It is the strategic plan step where people must now engage in purposeful action if success is to be achieved. Here the process ceases to be visionary and abstract, and now becomes measurable. Here the subjective becomes objective and it is time for management to step in and execute. This is the pivotal place where leadership must shift to management, and management must put the nuts and bolts together to make the vision vehicle run down the road to achievement.  Often it is in this step that ministry vision comes apart at the seams because visionary leaders are often poor managers. If you are a visionary leader you must recruit managers who can assist you in implementation.

The challenge of ministry management…

In business the vision of a company is a type of vehicle. It is a vehicle made up of supply and demand, leverage, margins, and materials combined to produce results, and ultimately upward movement in the bottom line. This nuts and bolts metaphor is a good analogy in most arenas, but not in ministry. There is a difference between getting the job done in the secular and getting the job done in the sacred. While I’m preaching, we must have management type people. We must train them with a ministry mindset and keep them filled with the Spirit. I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush here, but often management types bring with them their own set of challenges. Management people tend to be more analyst than leadership types. Therefore they tend to be fairly detail oriented, can be possessive, territorial, and lack the people skills needed to motivate the troops. That may be OK in manufacturing, but not in ministry. Let me explain.

For example, in businesses like manufacturing, if there is a problem with the leadership or with production, the assembly line or in sales, you can take the system apart, isolate the defective component and fix it. Then you can put it back together and get going again. But you can’t always do that in ministry. Why? Because when we talk about ministry we are really talking about the Body of Christ. In other words, it is a living thing. Everything relates to something else. I tell pastors all the time, ministry is more like medicine than business. We must always remember that when a doctor treats a patient he is well aware that everything he does affects something else. Treat one area and the other areas experience the pain, or even the side effects of the medication. And often while treating one illness we can create another.

In all, the relationship between visionary leadership and executive level management can be a challenging one because we see things through different lens. The first, progress  (forward movement through change); the second, performance (systematic operations and maintenance of the status quo). It can be very difficult to be constantly moving into new territory while performing at a high level. But if both are committed to the vision and understand the real value that each brings to the team, balance can be achieved. When it happens it is a beautiful thing.

Four Coaching Tips For Leaders & Managers:

  1. Communicate the vision and the passion for the goal! Focusing on the same goal helps, even if you see it from different perspectives.
  2. Collaborate: consistent communication is the first priority in every effective and productive relationship.
  3. Celebrate wins together, carefully highlighting the part each role played in the success.
  4. Cooperate: Practice looking at goals and systems through the lens of the other team member’s perspectives. Understanding is critical to cooperation.