Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

Leader or Manager?

  • Ron Walters Vice President of Church Relations, Salem Communications
  • Published Mar 05, 2009
Leader or Manager?

On the surface they're alike; cold, delicious and fattening. The price is the same; the containers identical, their purpose is one. Yet, no self-respecting ice cream gourmet would be neutral on the subject. Chocolate or vanilla?

Leadership or management? It's the same dilemma.

On the surface there's a striking resemblance. Like a person's two hands: the color is the same, number of fingers match, but the thumbs are on opposite sides. It's the difference of a thermometer and a thermostat; a compass and a road map. It's the same gene pool, but "cousin" is as close as it gets.

Every institution exists because of leadership and management. Your church couldn't survive without them. Every pastor, whether mandated or not, is expected to provide both. Each is a full time job. Neither is done without a sizable investment of time and effort. They are the measuring sticks by which your ministry is evaluated. Dull sermons we can forgive. Even long prayers finally come to an end. But confused leadership or mismanagement is the nuevo unforgivable sin.

LEADERSHIP without management is all breadth and no depth; style without substance. While MANAGEMENT without leadership is, as someone has put it, "Like straightening deck chairs on the Titanic."

Peter Drucker says,?"Management is doing things right, while leadership is doing the right things."? Steven Covey says, "Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; while leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall."

Leadership generates the vision, values, and purpose that creates action. Management, on the other hand, channels the action leadership creates. Leadership is mostly personal. Management is typically impersonal. Leadership appeals to the level of intuition and emotion; it's pointing the way. While management speaks to the raw intellect with facts and figures; it's keeping us on track.

Certainly there are those extraordinarily gifted individuals who double-up in both fields; who pitch and catch at the same time. But by-and-large, each of us is equipped for one or the other:

Abraham was a leader, Jacob was a manager
Moses was a leader, Joshua was a manager
Isaiah was a leader, Hezekiah was a manager
Paul was a leader, Barnabas was a manager
General Patton was a leader, General Eisenhower was a manager
President Reagan was a leader, President Carter was a manager

The Roman Empire was a leader. For hundreds of years their top priority was expansion; to march and conquer. Then it began to shift to a defensive posture as they built walls to keep out the dreaded barbarians. The walls were a physical sign of the empire's change of policy; a move towards decline.

If you were to take a self-evaluation test today, what would you find? Do you see your role as leader or manager; visionary or administrator, telescope or microscope? Was it any different in your first year at the church? What would your congregation say YOUR ROLE is right now, leader or manager? What would they say THEIR NEED is right now?


Ron Walters
Vice President of Church Relations
P.S. If you're looking for great preaching tools, don't forget Preaching Magazine. It's my favorite. Check it out at Do your congregation a favor by subscribing.
Copyright 2007 by Ron Walters

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Original publication date: March 6, 2009