Leaders need to have management skills …

There’s a ton of junk being passed off as leadership wisdom in conferences pastors and other church leaders attend. One of the biggest falsehoods so easily embraced and bounced around social media is the difference between leadership and management, with a condescending, almost insulting view of the work of managing.

But the truth be told, the BEST leaders usually have strong management skills, or they partner with someone who does in order to be an effective leader.

Let me give you a very real example. I’m thinking of a specific pastor and church I know, but this pastor and church are multiplied by several other pastors I know just like him. This pastor could be a good leader, but he allows his lack of good management skills to hurt his leadership.

This pastor is proficient at coming up with good ideas, and with collaborating with others in developing ideas and creating plans. But this pastor is terrible at implementing plans and turning them into successful realities. In fact, his ministry career is the story of regularly coming up with good ideas with his team, but almost always failing at them.

These failures usually result from a couple reasons. One reason is that, after building a vision and developing a plan, he continuesmicro-management2 to allow input so broad — and continued addition of ideas after a plan has been developed — that what is finally attempted is far afield from what was initially decided upon and planned. The other reason things fail is that when he does stick to a plan, he micromanages the new idea to death … literally. He doesn’t allow anything to happen without him being directly involved, which means nothing exceeds his level of mediocre management. So things stall, then crash to a fiery death. Well, maybe not that melodramatic! The new ideas, processes, or programs usually just languish for lack of good management for a few years until it’s decided something new needs to be tried.

There are a lot of pastors out there who are building a ministry career of “launch and crash” because they’re told management is not leadership and they should be out there leading, “casting vision,” and creating leaders, not the lowly work of managing.

But a vision with a plan must be executed. That execution, and the work of turning a vision into a reality, must be managed. It cannot steer itself. A leader must manage his work! Management skills can be learned, and leaders can also partner with others who have greater management skills than themselves to help turn ideas into successful realities.

An effective shepherd doesn’t just dream of ways of enlarging his herd, he also takes good care of — manages! — the flock he has. Pastors might find some benefit in cutting back on the flood of so much leadership information and make time to sharpen their management skills so they can accomplish more than think up good ideas.

Like see them actually become reality.