The Tension Between Leading and Managing

The Tension Between Leading and Managing
by Orange Leaders
The Tension Between Leading and Managing
Carey Nieuwhof distinguishes between leaders and managers in children’s ministry.


Orange Leadersby Carey Nieuwhof

I’m a leader by nature.  I love to try to create something out of nothing, take the 30,000-foot view, and dream about the future.  I’m also very fortunate to have some very gifted and talented people around me.

One of the people on our leadership team is an exceptional manager (and a leader in her own right).  We get along incredibly well except that we could sense a tension that arose from time to time in meetings.

When I would dream out loud, she would try to figure out how much it would cost, who would follow up, and how it would fit into our strategic plan.  Sometimes, that was welcomed.  Often, it bugged me.

At other times, we’d be in a meeting and she would be so hyperfocused on follow through, logistics, and next steps that I would feel suffocated.  I felt like I needed to get out of the room and get some air.

When we drilled down on it, I learned she felt the same way for opposite reasons.  It was my dreaming that bothered her.  If she didn’t see practical or immediate value in it (and couldn’t rein me in), she would feel like she needed to leave the room to get some air or have a conversation with someone who had some practical bones in their body.

Then we hired a corporate coach who helped us see that both approaches were absolutely indispensable to the growth of our organization.  We need dreamers, and dreamers need room to dream.  And we need people who excel at execution like she does. And they need to plot next steps because otherwise, dreams remain just that….dreams.  It sounds so simple, but sometimes you can be in the same room and just miss it.

Since someone named the value in both of our approaches, we’ve been able to have more productive meetings, a better working relationship, and an even deeper appreciation for what we both bring to the table as leaders.


Leaders– what do you need to do to better value great managers around you?

Managers– what do you need to do to affirm the great leaders and dreamers around you?


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