Tim Livengood

Manager or Leader?

At the beginning of my MBA program, I was asked to write an essay on the difference between leadership and management. What I discovered is that the terms “leader” and “manager” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. The two words describe different but complementary roles within an organization. Management is about helping an organization deal with complexity and bringing order to chaos. Leadership is about helping an organization deal with change. It is about setting vision and direction for the organization. It is about aligning people to the vision and motivating them to move towards it. Both the manager and the leader are vital.

An executive pastor must be able to operate as both a leader and manager. On the one hand he or she figures out the details needed to bring about the vision of the senior pastor, but on the other hand the executive pastor must bring their own level of inspiration and vision to the congregation and staff. The mistake some executive’s make is to spend all their time managing instead of leading. Church staff are not paid what they could make in the secular world. They have to be inspired before they can be organized. The reason church staff and volunteers are drawn to an organization is because of the clearly articulated vision of the leader, not the organizational structure. It is important that those who are gifted in management do not forget that.

The most pressing leadership issues of today fall into one of two categories. Either they are external to the leader or they are internal. External challenges include the current financial position of the church, the public perception of the church, political climate, the attitudes of those who are apart of the group, etc. Internal challenges include things like the insecurity of the leader, a lack of vision, character flaws, and the fear of failure.

External challenges can seem overwhelming to a leader (especially at the beginning of the leadership journey), but it is the inner life of a leader that is the far more important factor in determining long term future success or failure. People used to believe that leaders were born and not made. Studies were done to determine what the key characteristics were of visionary leaders. It became apparent, however, that there are no universal characteristics. In fact, now the opposite is often held up as true and the inner life of a leader is almost deemed unnecessary. This de-emphasis on the internal qualities leaves too many leaders with a fake-it-to-you-make-it approach to leadership.

It is the internal life of a leader that is on display over and over again in the Bible and held up as the model for success. It is the faithfulness of Noah, the passion of David, the wisdom of Solomon that makes them into leaders. No leader can be truly successful until they have dealt with their own internal challenges.

Most pastors will find themselves with a mixture of leadership and management gifts. Most of us will be stronger in one or the other. I find myself gifted more in the leadership side then the management side, but I do not believe that means management has to be a weakness. One of the reasons I have been working on the MBA is to improve in my management skills. Whatever the blend of management/leadership skills, the important thing is to be fully aware of one’s inner life.

The Value of Trust

In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey argues that trust is the currency of an organization. Organizations with high trust are able to make decisions quickly and cheaply, while an organization without trust makes decisions slowly and expensively. Covey uses the example of airport security. Prior to 9/11 there was a great deal of trust in airport security. We could show up at an airport 20 minutes before a flight and have no trouble boarding a plane. Now it takes 1.5 to 2 hours to make it through security in large airports, and TSA security fees add extra cost to all of our tickets.

Trust is also the primary currency of our homes. When a teenager is not trusted by a parent the decision to let them spend an extra hour at the mall involves a great deal of time and expense. When a parent is not trusted by a teenager every decision becomes a battle. So how do we create more trust in our homes?

We have to start by accepting that we cannot control the actions of other members of our households. We can only control how we react ourselves, and then make the choice to demonstrate trustworthy behavior even when it is inconvenient. It means being fair with our kids and not over reacting. It means having good follow through on our promises. It means being consistent. Our kids need to know that when they act in certain ways, there will always be certain results. Most importantly though our kids have to know we have their best interest at heart.

When a boss is manipulative or selfish then obedience to their decisions comes from their position as the boss and not from trust. Many parents think they are leading with the trust of their family, but the reality is that children are obeying because their parents are the boss. It is sometimes necessary to make decisions as the boss, but those decisions are costly.

Second, we need to remember that the level and type of trust within a home will evolve as the relationship evolves. We do not relate to or trust a toddler in the same way we do a teenager.

Our goal as parents is to move the level of trust within our family to the next level. One way we can do that is to create a common purpose or goal. We can all remember times that our families came together during a crises. In those moments trust was high because there was a common enemy. It is possible to create these trust filled moments intentionally through positive actions. (i.e. getting our of debt, volunteering, etc.) Giving the family something to unify behind is a great way to build trust.

Finally, no matter how carefully we try to protect our families, trust is occasionally damaged. The way we react in those moments is important if we want to see trust rebuilt. We must be willing to take immediate action. Consistency plus time equals trust, but only when the issues are being dealt with. We must be willing to forgive or ask for forgiveness for broken trust and we must decide on a plan for restoration. If we are not intentional about the plan it will take much longer to get back on the right path.


Creating Space

Like most parents I rejoiced the moment my daughters were able to dress themselves for bed at night. I was celebrating one more thing on my nightly list that I no longer had to do. Looking back I realize that moment of celebration cost me something. When the girls were young we were able to create space around the bedtime ritual. That space was used to talk about the day, to read bedtime stories and to giggle. Now the girls dress themselves, climb into bed, and even read their own bedtime stories. It happened without me even realizing it.

The older our kids get the harder it becomes to guard those spaces in life. By the time they are teenagers most of those spaces will be gone. Sometimes they vanish because we aren’t paying attention to them. Sometimes we simply don’t recognize their value until it is too late. I have been working hard during the last few months at recognizing those natural spaces in life that can be used to create moments with my children.

One of those moments for our family is in the car on the way to school in the morning. We talk about everything from Kidsplace on Sunday morning to why there is ice on the windshield. What about you? Are there moments of space in your life that are naturally created by your family’s rhythm? What are you doing to take advantage of those moments? I want to encourage you to use those times to ask questions about your teenager’s life and really listen to them. Improving communication is not always about creating new points of contact as much as recognizing and using the ones that are already present.

Don't Leave the Parenting to Experts!

I am not an auto mechanic. This is a source of embarrassment to much of my wife’s side of the family. My father-in-law owned a funny car (dragster) and drove in the National Hot Rod Association. I am pretty sure I can change my oil. Sometimes, however, I use my lack of expertise as an excuse to not do things to my car that even I know should be done.

What’s that noise? Never mind, turn the radio up.

We live in a society that is characterized by specialization. While that has provided us with many advancements, there are times when farming out a job hurts us in the long run. Even though I am not a mechanic, I am glad I have learned to change my oil, add engine coolant, and fix a tire. If I left those things to a mechanic my car would be in worse shape then it is now.

As parents there are many jobs that we are tempted to leave to the “experts.” We depend on our student’s teachers to educate them. We expect their coaches to teach sportsmanship, and we expect the church to instill morality and spiritual passion. Each of these experts have their place, but none of them replace parents.

Youth ministry should supplement and reinforce your own spiritual guidance. The church should partner with you and give you resources useful in raising Christian young people, not compete with you or take your job away.

I want to encourage you as a parent to get involved in the spiritual life of your student. Don’t be afraid to talk about your own faith journey even if you don’t have all the answers. I would know nothing at all about auto mechanics if there wasn’t a moment when I decided to pick up a wrench. The conversation has to start somewhere.

Am I Enough?

I have been asking myself a lot of questions recently about what it means to be a parent. What is my job? Am I succeeding at it? All of us have more then one ball in the air, which means occasionally we drop one. The important thing is choosing which ball to let fall.

Sometimes we fail as parents because we have never defined success. Sometimes we fail because we have the same definition of success that we did when our kids were in kindergarten. (i.e. make sure they are wearing pants before leaving for school in the morning.) Some of us fail because we have defined success in such a way that no one could possibly do it.

I listened to Focus on the Family once define success in parenting as, “enough.” Your job is not to do everything right or perfect. It is to do enough to stack the deck of life in your kids favor all the while realizing the ultimate outcome isn’t in your control. They are the ones that will be standing before God giving an account for their actions. That is a hard lesson for me to learn, but I am trying to learn it now while I am still working on making sure my child is wearing their pants.