First, Break All the Rules provides a good distinction between managers and leaders. There are a lot of different definitions floating around about these two terms and it confuses the issue. More than anything, I’ve heard that leaders are good because they push things forward, while managers are only capable of maintaining the status quo. Managers are often seen as a level below leaders — as potential leaders who just need to develop their skills a bit more.
Buckingham and Coffman provide a different view that demonstrates the need and value for both. Leaders are those that look outside to evaluate what is going on in the culture around the organization, and through that they seek to pilot the organization in the appropriate direction. Managers are those that look inside the organization. They see the strengths and abilities that those within have to offer and determine how those talents can best be put to use for the benefit of the cause or the organization. As I’m processing this, I have a some (admittedly unfinished and even a bit contradictory?) thoughts on how this translates into the church.
1) It seems to me that we often think the lead pastor of a church should carry both of these roles. We have rolled both of these up into one and call it the gift of leadership. Unfortunately, that means that a pastor is likely to be stronger in one area than the other, so the other will be left lacking. Those within the church that have the opposing perspective might often become frustrated with the “leadership” that their pastor provides because they see this piece missing.
2) Is the gift of leadership described in the NT more like a manager who looks inside or a leader who looks outside? Or does it encompass elements of both? The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament makes this statement about the word translated as leader in Romans 12:8: “According to the context the task of the προϊστάμενοι (leader) is in large measure that of pastoral care, and the emphasis is not on their rank or authority but on their efforts for the eternal salvation of believers.” Admittedly, I fit more in the manager category, so I’m a bit biased, but this and other statements the TDNT makes about this word make it look like the role the Bible defines as leader equals Buckingham’s definition of a manager. It is one who who cares for those within the flock to help them to grow and offer what they have to the body.
3) If #2 is true, then where does Buckinham’s definition of a leader fit. Is it exclusively the role of the Holy Spirit to give future direction to the church? If so, how does the Spirit communicate that? Is it given to one person in a point position, or discerned through a team of people seeking the Spirit together? One could argue that Paul as an individual clearly had a vision and a drive to plant churches. However, he pretty clearly received that mandate through the leadership community in Antioch (Acts 13:1-3). Of course, through the course of his journeys, Paul seemed to receive pretty clear direction as an individual about some of those places he was to go. (Acts 16:6-10).
I see the main role of the pastor as one that fits within Buckingham’s definition of a manger, but operating under and seeking the leadership of the Holy Spirit. He/she is one who shepherds a community of people to move each of them toward growth, health, and fulfillment through using the gifts God has given them. Through the passages above, and life experience, I conclude that the Sprit sets a large vision before a group of people (plant communities of faith), and places a more distinctive direction (where, how, what should this community look like?) into the hearts of the individuals that he has called to pastor those communities. This individual should always receive confirmation from the Spirit through intense disciplines and interaction with others who abide in the Spirit (the discipline of guidance).