Do you see yourself as a manager or leader?

There have been multiple books and articles on the topic of management and leadership which especially deal with the difference between them.  It seems to me that people are desperate to be known as leaders rather than managers and I think this can be true in YWAM too.  I hardly even hear the word, ‘manager’ in our mission – perhaps it even has a negative connotation?  Do you know of a manager of a base or a team?  It seems we love being directors, even though that term has been taken out of our official vocabulary.  And we love being leaders. We have team leaders, base leaders, area leaders, ministry leaders – we may even have more leaders than staff! We have been encouraged to use the new term ‘convener’ but it’s a difficult word to translate in some cultures, so it’s not always well understood.   

I googled the topic of leaders and managers and here is a short list of qualities of the leader and manager written by a best-selling author on leadership:

  1. Leaders create vision, managers create goals
  2. Leaders are change agents, managers maintain the status quo
  3. Leaders are unique, managers copy
  4. Leaders take risks, managers control risks
  5. Leaders are in it for the long haul, managers think short term
  6. Leaders build relationships, managers build systems and processes

After reading that list, are you motivated to be a manager?  I don’t even agree with some of the definitions.  Managers have had a bad rap. Leaders tend to receive the glory. Leaders develop the strategy and vision, yet the manager is the one who has to work out all the details, build the team, create the processes, implement all the plans and make it happen! 

Let me share a radical thought.  Rather than continually debate whether we are a leader or a manager, let’s think about the behaviours that are important for a leader or manager to function in, so that we can be effective in our roles.

It’s interesting that the business world seems mixed up about this whole debate too. We see titles such as – Leadership Qualities of a Good Manager! Or a statement like this: ‘If you are doing things right, the manager and leader should be the same. Someone who is managing others and helping them be successful is also leading them by creating a clear vision for what everyone is working towards.’

If you are operating a small team or pioneering a new ministry in YWAM, you need just about every characteristic of the leader and manager combined. I just read in a Forbes magazine: ‘A successful business owner needs to be both a strong leader and manager to get their team on board to follow them towards their vision of success.’

Vision is important: In YWAM we are impressed with vision. The bigger the better. Unfortunately, some visionary leaders neglect the development of relational and communication skills, team building skills or the emotional intelligence to know how our teams are feeling and functioning! At times leaders can think, ‘As long as we have the vision, that’s enough. That’s what is needed to move us forward and stay on the cutting edge.’

People are important: I think the team development and pastoral gift has been given a little more honour over the last few years. However, we still have a long way to go to raise the level of relational connection and appreciation for individuals and team life in general. Those with people skills on our teams are the ones who are the glue that bring stability, helping to maintain our unity.

I think the problem has been a separation of the vision forming role from the people development role.  Vision involves people, so people need to be integrated, consulted with and fully functioning in the strategy development. People require time, – not from some person off to the side like a Human Resources department in a business, but from the those they are following and looking to, in order to fulfil their calling. 

This discussion of manager and leader becomes more vital in a larger organisation or business where there are multiple levels of structure.  In YWAM however, although we are large in terms of members scattered around the world, many of our teams are often small and quite focused on particular aspects of vision.  With this in mind, we need the qualities of both leaders and managers.  We need to hear what God is saying for the big picture and then work out a plan to see it implemented and develop the team to function well together.  

We have always had a value of team, so as you build yours, identify the more visionary gift, the more relational and planning gifts and the more prophetic gifts. Recognise that if you are a visionary leader, you also need to be relational and if you are more managerial, you must still see the big picture.  Ideally of course, we can staff our weaknesses and often partnerships emerge where one is more visionary and the other is more people and systems oriented.  This is by far the best option but not always possible or available.

If there is an emphasis for this new generation, I would say that we do well to become closer to the biblical approach of loving God and loving people.  The vision grows out of connection, prayer and brainstorming together.  Out of the great commandment comes the inspiration of the great commission. 

Until next month,


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