Leadership Expectations

Do the people you lead expect you to calm things down, provide stability, and return things to normal? Isn’t that what leadership is supposed to do? In most churches this is the main responsibility of the pastor/leader. After all, the very title of pastor conjures up visions of green fields full of happy sheep frolicking in idyllic joy. To tell the truth, it’s also the expectation of most pastors. Yet pastors are also commissioned to be change initiators and change is almost always messy. 

In his classic book On Becoming a Leader (Bennis, 2003) Bennis made a distinction (perhaps too sharply) between leadership, where the goal is change, and management, where the goal is efficiency (see Suggested Readings – Leadership). Both are important and often both are required skills of the same person in authority. However, because they have different purposes, when people expect one and get another there can be a firestorm of Biblical proportions! 

Take for example the pastor who sees tension building between those in the traditional service and those in the contemporary one. People from each want their service in the “prime time” slot on Sunday morning. Folks from both services are looking to the leadership to provide the solution. They want a fix to their scheduling problem. Suppose however, the pastor determines the problem is deeper and requires attitudinal change on behalf of people in both services. Therefore, he inaugurates a 6 month preaching series on selfishness and unity, allowing the situation to go unresolved and seemingly unaddressed while he stealthily tackles the root issues in the weekly sermon.

The people are expecting a solution (management) and the pastor provides leadership (addressing attitudes and values). Torches are lit, tar is heated, chickens plucked and the pastor now sells used refrigerators in the Arctic. In such a situation both management and leadership are necessary. Appointing a committee composed from people of both services to “study the issue” and report back to the congregation with recommendations, affords the pastor the time necessary to address the attitudes that need to be changed. (If the committee functions like most in the church, the pastor has until the next ice age before recommendations are made anyway…) 

A good pastor/leader employs the right skill set, management or leadership or both, to accomplish the right goal. Knowing which tool you’re using and why, may keep you out of the Arctic.


6 thoughts on “Leadership Expectations

    1. Christopher, thanks for the kind words. I also appreciated your site’s emphasis on human capital. Speaking about qualitative issues to quantitatively oriented leaders as you do is a challenge not everyone appreciates. Nice work.

      1. Thanks! I believe that our philosophies and goals are certainly complimentary, and are equally applicable in most situations. It takes great leaders with great management capabilities to execute the concepts that I work with, and to be successful in their implementation.

  1. This is interesting in that sometimes the leader truly has to take stock of the political momentum (like, the attitude of those who are paying his salary) and then balance his own ideas with the price to pay. I am not a pastor, but some are probably called into church management, while others may be more entreprenurial and can start up their own new ideas. Buy-in from the flock is so important, and yes there are times when the leader must take a stand and pay whatever price if he believes it is the right thing. Sometimes it is not so cut and dry.

    Like you say, I think understanding and setting expectations at the beginning is a very important place to start as a leader.

  2. Very thoughtful article. A friend told me yesterday that leadership consists, at least in part, in doing precisely what is required at the moment. Sometimes doing what’s required is simpler than knowing what’s required.

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