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Leadership Is Different Than Management

For years, John P. Kotter has been regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on leadership. With numerous books and articles published by the Harvard Business Review, his teachings on leadership and management have impacted thousands of people and organizations. 

One of the key elements of Kotter's teaching is his delineation between leadership and management.

J.Kotter1Kotter states, "In more than four decades of studying businesses and consulting to organizations on how to implement new strategies, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people use the words 'leadership' and 'management'synonymously, and it drives me crazy every time."

In a January 2013 article in the Harvard Business Review, Kotter breaks down the most common mistakes in these terms:

Mistake #1: People use the terms “management” and “leadership” interchangeably. This shows that they don’t see the crucial difference between the two and the vital functions that each role plays.

Mistake #2: People use the term “leadership” to refer to the people at the very top of hierarchies. They then call the people in the layers below them in the organization “management.” And then all the rest are workers, specialists, and individual contributors. This is also a mistake and very misleading.

Mistake #3: People often think of “leadership” in terms of personality characteristics, usually as something they call charisma. Since few people have great charisma, this leads logically to the conclusion that few people can provide leadership, which gets us into increasing trouble.

The title of "leader" is bestowed upon pastors. It is presumed that because the pastor is called and placed in the position of guiding the church and shepherding the people that he is truly a leader. In some cases, based on personality, giftedness and vision-casting ability, some pastors are actually managers. This may be why there are so many churches struggling to move forward in calling and mission.

Management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you produce the products 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 isn 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. (Kotter)

In the church setting, the managers (not a term I'd use in church) are those who are able to focus on the nuts and bolts of the ministries and events provided. This may be committee processes such as property management, budgeting, finances, or even personnel. This also will include the guiding of small group strategies and the development of metrics to better determine "wins" and the continued focus of church ministries.

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. (Kotter)

The empowered leader within the church is God's design for ensuring the church moves forward, without forsaking its calling. These are the vision-casters. These leaders are the ones who have eyes to see and ears to hear and are vital in ensuring the church remains focused on the Gospel while seeking new and exciting ways to engage an ever-morphing culture. 

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that many churches in our nation are plateaued and some are even dying? Perhaps it is because visionary leaders have defaulted into being managers?

Managers are needed in the local church, but apart from a leader, surrendered to the Lordship and ultimate leadership of God, the vision wanes and the church misses the larger story.

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 "Management Is (Still) Not Leadership." Harvard Business Review. 9 Jan. 2013. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. . 

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