I think it is time that we see management and leadership as complementary–not contradictory.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about trying to rebrand and revitalize the word “management.” 

The truth is, management has gotten a bad rap over the last thirty years. Here are some popular quotes about management.

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” –Peter Drucker

“Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.” –Peter Drucker

“Managers light a fire under people… Leaders light a fire in people.” –Kathy Austin

“The manager maintains; the leader develops.” –Warren Bennis

“The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.” –Warren Bennis

“The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.” –Warren Bennis

No wonder no one wants to label themselves a manager.

If you want to get brutally honest, what we’ve been taught the last twenty-five years is that leaders are winners and managers are losers. And as a result of us focusing so much on leadership, at best, management is characterized as a secondary gift.

I think it is time that we see management and leadership as complementary–not contradictory. We must value both.

Michael Eisner (former CEO of Disney) was right when he said, “In every business, in every industry, management does matter.”

Leaders cast vision———Managers implement vision

Leaders define the destination———Managers build the road

Leaders live more in the future———Managers live more in the now

Leaders focus on the what/why———Managers focus on the how

Leaders focus on the ends———Managers focus on the means

Leaders provide inspiration———Managers deliver execution

 

Leadership and management are not mutually exclusive. 

Most of us have some leadership function in our role and also some management function. Very few of us have such a large organization that we can hand off all the management or leadership responsibility to someone else. 

I like the definition that says,

“Management is the process of reaching organizational goals by working with and through people and other organizational resources.”

Management is the ability to move the ball down the field. Managers get organizational traction.

There is a great biblical story that highlights the importance of management. 

When we pick up the story in Exodus 18, the people of Israel have been liberated from Egypt, and now they are on their way to the Promised Land. While Moses was on assignment from God to deliver the people of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh, he decided to have his wife and two boys stay with her parents. Now that they are safely out of Egypt, Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) brings Moses’ wife and kids back to him.

The people of Israel are in the middle of an amazing God story. They have witnessed miracle after miracle. It is mind boggling what Moses and the people of Israel have experienced.

The following day Jethro went to work with Moses. The Bible says that Moses took his seat and from morning until evening he settled all the disputes.

For more than two million people, he was the only judge. Think of all the wasted time spent waiting in line to get a few minutes with Moses. It was worse than the DMV office.

It had to be stressful, frustrating, and exhausting for the people, but it was no party for Moses either. Think of how this must have felt for Moses. He would drop into bed day after day, exhausted and drained. Then, he would get up early, scarf down a bowl of cereal, and head to the office. And when he pulled into the parking lot, there was already a long line of people forming who need something from him.

Any dispute that could not be settled was brought to Moses—no matter how small or big. When Jethro watches this for a day, he says to Moses, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” 

That’s a nice way of saying, “Have you lost your mind?” It was like Moses being the solo judge for the entire metro area of Austin, Texas.

Listen to Moses’ response: I do this “because the people come to me to seek God’s will.” 

Translation: “They need me.” It’s like Moses is saying, “That’s just how we roll here. There are a lot of needy people, and I can’t turn them away. So I just stay at it and work hard until everyone gets what they need from me.”

This sounds like a conversation I’ve had many times with my wife, Connie. She would look at the pace of my life and how I was doing ministry and basically say “this is nuts.” I would respond with statements like, “I’m a pastor. I’m needed. This just comes with being in ministry. I can’t say no.”

And like Moses, I found myself in an unhealthy and unsustainable way of life. 

What was obvious to Jethro was oblivious to Moses. Jethro responds, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.” 

Basically, he says, “You have a broken management system.” The current system was ineffective, exhausting, and dysfunctional. It was wasting time and energy. Moses was the bottleneck. This system was wearing out Moses, and it was wearing out the people. 

When we have poorly devised and poorly functioning management systems, we will wear out ourselves and our team. We will end up spending a lot of sideways energy managing the problems of a broken system.

As an outsider, Jethro could see things more clearly and objectively. 

By the way, when you have a broken management system, the answer isn’t to just work harder. But that’s usually our “go to” response. I love that Moses listened to his father-in-law. He was teachable. He didn’t blow up or become defensive. He didn’t pull the position card. Even though the way Moses was leading had to be exhausting, it can really stroke your ego. “I’m the man. I’m the woman! When people have a problem, they come to me.”

When Jethro asks, “Why do you do all this alone?” I think he puts his finger on a very important principle of Scripture—

No one is gifted enough to do it all alone. No one has all the gifts. That’s the beauty of the body of Christ. It’s about all of us using our gifts. And we need both gifted leaders and effective managers.

No one is gifted enough to do it all alone. No one has all the gifts. That’s the beauty of the body of Christ. It’s about all of us using our gifts. And we need both gifted leaders and effective managers. Click To Tweet

It takes a team to effectively lead the church, not just a couple of gifted superstars. When Jethro offers Moses some advice for solving this dilemma, he points out the need for managers and a management system. 

“But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens” (Exodus 18:21 NIV). 

Jethro was encouraging Moses to find some men of high competency and high character to help manage the load. But he was also advocating a management system that could be effective and better spread out the load. 

It takes a team to effectively lead the church, not just a couple of gifted superstars. Click To Tweet

I believe it is significant that Moses starts with the people first and then addresses the issue of a system. If you have managers that are high-competence and high-character, they can figure out the management systems. But you can have fabulous systems and if you don’t have competent managers they will never execute the systems effectively.

A leader without managers is like a quarterback without an offensive line. It is the offensive line that does the hard work down in the trenches and creates the path for the ball to move forward. Click To Tweet

I love the hopeful words of Jethro in Exodus 18:23:

“If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” 

This is a win-win. It was a win for Moses in that he wouldn’t burn out. It was a win for the people because their problems could be resolved in a more timely and effective manner. And that was largely because the competent managers were appointed and a management system was implemented.

So, let me say it again… management matters!

It really does. If you have a management role in your organization, wear your label proudly. It is not a secondary gift. A leader without managers is like a quarterback without an offensive line. It is the offensive line that does the hard work down in the trenches and creates the path for the ball to move forward.

This is an excerpt High Impact Teams by Lance Witt

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