By Chuck Peters
There’s a subtle but profound difference between being a manager and being a leader.
Managers focus on accomplishing tasks—getting work done, making sure everyone on the team is productive. Managers think about schedules and budgets and efficiencies. Someone might hold the title of “manager.” That title may appear on a business card, office door or silver name badge.
Managers are very important in a team structure. They tend to have power because of their position. Every type of organization—whether a business, ministry or an institution—needs managers.
Managers are trustworthy keepers who are responsible to make sure that things get done when they need to be done, whether it’s this month, this week, or today.
Leaders, I propose, operate a bit differently. While leaders certainly want things to get done on deadline, they also understand the importance of looking beyond the urgencies of the immediate with an eye for the “why.”
Leaders own the reason behind the schedule. They possess the purpose that precedes the plan. They own the desired outcome that drives the deadline. “Leader” is not a common title within organizations. Leaders exist on many levels of an organization.
Managers may be leaders, but leaders may not be managers. They have influence because of their ideas and ideologies. Leaders are visionary influencers.
They are culture-shapers who see beyond the urgencies of today because they have their sights set on tomorrow. Five years from now. Ten years from now. Twenty years from now.
It is a wonderful thing to have leaders at the top of an organization. We need CEOs and senior pastors to see and set a clear and compelling vision, purpose and direction. However, organizations benefit greatly by investing in leadership development at every level of the org chart.
Managers can be hired; leaders have to be developed.
Developing leaders requires time and intentionality. It is more about the transfer of values and vision and philosophy and strategy than of tasks and checklists.
Here are five things leaders can do to create a culture of leadership.
Invest in the people you lead for their long-term growth and value. Think of people in terms of ELV (Employee Lifetime Value).
Don’t just manage work, identify and develop the people you lead in a way that challenges, equips and encourages them to become leaders.
Don’t just assign tasks, articulate the decision-making process. Cast vision.
Explain and transfer logic, philosophy, and strategy so team members understand why your organization does what it does. Invite “why” questions and provide answers.
Equip, authorize and empower team leaders to take action and make decisions to move projects forward without encumbrance.
This requires releasing tightly-held control over every detail and affording trusted people the latitude to achieve clearly defined objectives in whatever way works.
Give people the opportunity to learn by “failing forward” without fearing negative repercussions.
Leaders should quickly give credit for successes and take the blame for shortcomings. Make your team feel safe to act with confidence.
Invite people to share their ideas, insights and perspectives. Let them know they have a voice. Provide opportunities for them to be heard. Positional leaders are not the only ones who may have good ideas.
Valuable insights exist at every level. Leaders need to be listeners.
Leadership isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. In fact, that’s how God intended it to be.
Paul describes the body of Christ as being comprised of many parts. Every part has a specific and essential purpose. God has gifted each person with individual and specific personalities, affinities and skillsets.
Your goal should not be to make every person on your team into a leader, but rather to lead people in a way that raises everyone’s awareness of the higher purpose of their position, and allows future leaders to be found and developed.
CHUCK PETERS (@_chuckpeters) is director of operations for LifeWay Kids. He is a graduate of Columbia Bible College. A creative person by nature, Chuck’s unique combination of leadership experience in media production, business, and ministry has caused him to become an unexpected fan of leadership, strategy, data, and analysis in ministry. He lives outside Nashville with his wife and four kids.