Last week we talked about the one thing you need to know as a manager – to see each person you supervise as a unique individual with strengths and gifts to offer.  This week we’ll look at Marcus Buckingham’s ideas about great leadership.  They come from his CD set, Just one Thing: Unlocking the Key to Great Management and Leadership.  Part of our calling as pastors is to manage staff and lay leaders.  However, we are also called to be leaders.  Whereas the chief responsibility of a manager is to turn a person’s talents into performance, the chief responsibility of a leader is to rally people to a better future.

Leaders need to be optimists, not pessimists.  They need to tell those they lead, “We can do this!” and then show them how.  Leaders do not deny the reality of the present.  However, nothing can undermine their belief that things can and will get better. 

The one thing you need to know as a leader is that you must find out what is universal and capitalize on it.  Managers focus on individual differences, but leaders cut across differences and focus on ideals that we all share.  Leaders recognize our human fear of the unknown and turn that legitimate anxiety into confidence.

How do we do that?  By being clear.  Great leaders have clarity about mission and vision.  They communicate that clarity of vision to their followers, who seek responses to four questions.

  • We want to know whom we serve.  What is our mission?
  • We want to know what our core strength is.  What is our edge?
  • We want specific, concrete steps that we can take today.  How can we make our dreams a reality?
  • We want know how to keep score.  How will we measure progress toward our goals?

Buckingham uses the superstore Best Buy as an example of an organization that has clearly defined its core strength.  Best Buy decided that its core strength was its employees and their blue shirts.  Customers would not only buy products but would return to Best Buy again and again if its employees were trained well enough to answer any question thrown at them.  Realizing that their customers were smart people but without knowledge of how technology could help them, the leaders of Best Buy concentrated on intense training on the front line.  The core strength of Best Buy became its 100,000 blue-shirted employees.  That simple clarity worked.  

Buckingham says that as leaders, we must practice discipline in three ways in order to achieve the clarity we need to rally our people to a better future.

First, we need to take time to reflect.  Have you heard the recommendation for pastors to take one day a month and one week a year as retreat time?  It’s not vacation; nor is it work.  It’s time away to think, ponder, muse and dream in the presence of a God whose son also took time away from his ministry.  It’s time to ask the questions: Why did this work and that didn’t?  Why did this succeed and that fail?  What does excellence look like in my situation?  Where is God leading the congregation?

Second, we need to pick our heroes with great care.  Who are the people of generations past and present that you choose to celebrate as models and examples?  Why do they inspire you?  How do they embody the core strengths of an organization?  How can you adapt their clarity and vision into your particular situation?

Third, we need a powerful mission statement that contains the images, words and stories that will inspire people to strive toward a positive future.   Buckingham cites the “I Have a Dream” speech of Martin Luther King, Jr.  King had planned a very different speech, even though his advisors told him he should change what he had written.  11 minutes into his speech King realized that he was losing his audience and reverted back to words and phrases he had used before.  I have a dream…  Have you discovered words and images that connect with your congregation?

This past fall during the church conferences, I heard the mission statements of each of the churches in the Grand Rapids District.  They are all wonderful, carefully thought through and well crafted.  However, a mission statement is only effective when lived out on a daily basis.  Does your mission statement rally your parishioners to a better future?  Do you hold your mission statement in front of the congregation continually?  Can congregation members name the core strengths of your church?  Do you have clearly defined steps to build on your strengths and live out your mission in the community and the world?

Managers and leaders.  Our vocation requires us to learn both skills.  Can you  move back and forth from being a manager who focuses on the unique differences of individuals to a leader who is a cheerleader looking toward a bright future?  Do you take time to look at the big picture and not get bogged down in the daily details of pastoring a church?  Conversely, in your call to be a manager, do you remember the individuality of each one of your church members and empower them to use their particular gifts?  Can you draw upon the universal aspects of the Christian community in order to discern the individual gifts of each person?  How might these questions and disciplines apply to your church as you seek to fulfill your call to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? 

May God bless you in your managing and leading.

Blessings, Laurie

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