I’ve had a lifelong interest in leadership. The first book I read on leadership was in 1986. Burt Nanus and Warren Bennis wrote “Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge.”
In this book, the authors made a distinction between leadership and management that is captured in this pithy phrase: Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things. That distinction helped me. Up to that point, there was no distinction for me between leadership and management.
The word leadership conveyed positional authority from which someone managed an organization or congregation. It was the first time I entertained the idea that this distinction mattered and that leadership had a particular set of skills that were distinct from management skills and that could be learned and mastered.
What it means to lead effectively has changed
Fast forward twenty-six years and much has changed on the leadership front.
Barbara Kellerman is the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her book, The End of Leadership, captures much of the change. While she would still make the distinction between management and leadership, she asserts that the evolving understanding of leadership and followership is changing – dramatically.
These changes are rapidly influencing what effective leadership actions entail. Broad failure on the part of organizations to recognize and adapt to these changes, according to Kellerman, has resulted in widespread disillusionment with and cynicism about leaders and their ability to lead effectively.
The leadership development industry hasn’t kept up
Kellerman critiques the leadership development industry in the U.S., asserting that it is largely ineffective. Kellerman asserts, among other things that:
- Leadership development occurs mostly with a focus on the leader (and not on the follower, who has become increasingly powerful in the leader/follower equation)
- Leadership fails to take the impact of power dynamics into account
- Leadership has not shifted nearly far enough from command-and-control to deep collaboration between leaders and followers
- Leadership fails to take enough account of the rapidly changing context in which leadership occurs
Leadership can be learned
As a lifelong student of leadership, I’ve continued to work on being an effective leader and I believe that leadership can be learned.
That is a part of the reason that Dr. Mike DeRuyter and I are offering a 10-week-course starting on April 26 entitled Pastoral Leadership and the Missional Church.
This course is for the pastoral leader who knows there is much to learn and who is tired of doing it alone. We believe that being in a safe community with other leaders facing these challenges will provide the human connections, support, and encouragement needed to stay the course.
I hope you will prayerfully consider joining us as we facilitate conversations designed to help all of us become more effective leaders.