Basic Tools 15: Leading as Well as Managing

Leading and managing are distinct functions.

  • Managers make what is work better.
  • Leaders take what is and make it into something new.

It is very easy for church leaders to become stuck in managing.  The “new” of God’s New Day in Jesus Christ can become lost in keeping everyone happy.  Easiest to lose is the daily living of the members.

The “delivery point” – the measure of effectiveness or the end product – for clergy is not Sunday morning or the prayer life of the members but how the members live every day.  Since the final truth about leadership is that it is shared by everyone, all – leaders and members, alike – are responsible for the how all live every day.  As the primary leaders and those with the most power to effect change, clergy have the central role in building and supporting member mission.

A breakthrough in leadership theory came in 1977 when Abraham Zaleznik published an article in the Harvard Business Review (“Managers and Leaders:  Are They Different?”  Harvard Business Review, January issue, 2004; website address,

“Zaleznik taught at the Harvard Business School for four decades. He authored 16 books and over forty articles. Beginning in the 1960s he studied at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. In 1971 he was certified as a clinical psychoanalyst, a rare achievement at a time when most psychoanalytic institutes trained physicians only. He saw patients in a psychoanalytic private practice for 20 years. In 1981 he met Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, on a trip to Japan. The latter established a chair in leadership at the Harvard Business School, which Zaleznik occupied until his retirement. Zaleznik served on corporate boards, consulted to many businesses, and was an early contributor to the formation of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations. He died at the age of 87. At the time of his death he had two grown children and five grandchildren. His wife of 66 years, Elizabeth, died two years earlier in 2009.”

Zaleznik, a founder of a school thought that integrated leadership and organization studies with psychoanalysis, was a Professor of Leadership Emeritus as Harvard Business School, one of the few certified psychoanalysts in the United States without a medical degree, and the author of sixteen books and numerous articles (

In his article, he distinguished between leaders and managers: managers make what is work better and leaders make what is into something new.  At the core of his work was the need for a vision for a leader to offer.  His observations shed light on the kind of people congregations need as leaders to organize around the vision of the laity as today’s primary missionaries.

Zaleznik’s work calls for rethinking the role of clergy in church life.  Leaders need to manage and managers need to lead.  However, when a congregation moves toward the vision of the members as the missionaries, the leader role is needed over the manager role.  Constant dialogue about the vision will call for vigorous advocacy for the vision by the leader.  On the one hand, the leader will override no one. Still, the leader must not derive the vision only from answers to “What kind of a congregation do we want?”  Member mission is a given in baptism.

Zaleznik’s work can be charted as on the next page / below.  Look it over.  Then discuss: “How do our experiences in leading rather than managing reflect Zaleznik’s findings?”

If you need to discuss more specifics of clergy leadership in member mission, see the pages that follow, “The leader’s role in helping the members to be missionaries.” To save time, concentrate on the elements in bold face.   Then discuss:  “Are you feeling swamped or challenged?  If you like the vision, can you relax as you live with it and into it?”

Leaders  Managers


“Vision, the hallmark of leadership, is less a derivative of spreadsheets and more a product of the mind called imagination. And vision is needed at least as much as strategy to succeed…A leader’s imagination impels others to act in ways that are truly, to use James MacGregor Burns’s felicitous term, ‘transformational.'” “Managers…are almost compulsively addicted to disposing of problems, even before they understand their potential significance. In my experience, seldom do the uncertainties of potential chaos cause problems. Instead, it is the instinctive move to impose order on potential chaos that makes trouble for organizations”
Goal-setting vs. Problem-solving
“…leaders think about goals. They are active instead of reactive, shaping ideas instead of responding to them.” “A managerial culture emphasizes rationality and control…a manager is a problem solver.”
Change vs. Preservation
“The methods [leaders use] to bring about change may be technological, political, or ideological, but the object is the same: to profoundly alter human, economic and political relationships.” “A manger’s sense of self-worth is enhanced by perpetuating and strengthening existing institutions. . . . “
Risk vs. Balance
“Where managers act to limit choices, leaders develop fresh approaches to long-standing problems and open issues to new options. To be effective, leaders must project their ideas onto images that excite people and only then develop choices that give those images substance…Leaders sometimes react to mundane work as to an affliction.” “To get people to accept solutions to problems, managers continually need to balance opposing views…Managers aim to shift balances of power toward solutions acceptable as compromises among conflicting values…For those who become managers, a survival instinct dominates the need for risk, and with that instinct comes an ability to tolerate mundane, practical work.”
Assertive vs. Congenial climate
“I wonder whether a greater capacity in senior officers to tolerate the competitive impulses and behavior of their subordinates might not be healthy for corporations.” “A chief executive officer naturally has the right to select people with whom he feels congenial.”

The leader’s role is helping the members to be missionaries.

The Rt. Rev. J. M. Mark Dyer offered these theological reflections on leadership in a recent conversation. The retired Episcopal bishop of Bethlehem, he is Professor of Theology and Director of Spiritual Formation at the Virginia Theological Seminary and Anglican Co-chair of the International Commission of the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue.  [“James Michael Mark Dyer (June 7, 1930 – November 11, 2014) was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem from 1982 to 1995.  He was a Roman Catholic Benedictine monk at Saint Anselm Abbey in Goffstown, New Hampshire, from 1960 to 1969.  He was received as a priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America on June 15, 1971.  He was consecrated Bishop of Bethlehem in 1982.  Following retirement, Dyer served as professor of theology and director of spiritual formation at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. He died in Alexandria of multiple myeloma in 2014.”]

Leadership is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ is the leader.  All leadership is derived from his leadership.

We do not own leadership.  Our task is to keep learning about it.

The Holy Spirit works among us keeping our learning about leadership an ongoing process.

The role of the clergy is heightened when they lead in the move away from making what is work better toward making what is into something new.  Their role is not diminished as some fear.  It is enhanced. And God’s reign increases!

1. Teach that mission is primary and that the church is the visible presence of Christ in the world.
2. Lead in the recovery of corporate worship as the work of the whole people of God and share responsibility for the planning and leading of a liturgy with the members.
3. Hold up the vision of every baptized person as a missionary.
4. Develop the members’ desire to realize the vision.
5. Recruit members to lead in moving toward this vision and provide for their training in their new role.
6. Help the leaders form a team to organize themselves to plan how the vision will take on flesh.
7. Support the leaders as they organize the congregation for training for mission by
(a) Providing some kind of catechumenal formation to form newcomers as conscious agents of
(b) Providing all members the Christian survival skills of common and individual prayer;
theological reflection; personal and social Christian decision-making; and how to work with
others for change; and
(c) Providing access to regional and ecumenical training where training for mission is provided that
is beyond the scope of their own congregation to provide.
8. Support the forming of affinity-based small groups for biblical reflection and mutual support for ministry in daily life.
9. Support the mission of the congregation as a body in its mission to its community — beginning with ministry with the poor.
10. Foster the communication needed for people to move from the old vision of the priest as the primary missionary and mission leader to the new vision of each member as a missionary.
11. Advocate for the new vision at all times.
12. Pursue constantly one’s own physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Such leadership requires growing skill in working with others.  To sharpen your skills:
1. Do something with a group — for example, practice chairing a 15-minute or so meeting.
2. Get feedback on your own behavior from a trained observer and from the rest of the group.
3. Draw out your learnings from how others perceived you and think of new behavior to try.
4. Try it in the same kind of 15-minute session.
5. Get further feedback on your behavior in that session.
6. Either save and build on the pattern or try a new one — repeating these same steps.