Leaders, Managers and Balance

Like many of you I am familiar with the address by Hugh Nibley called ‘Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift’.  It is a delightful talk that has much to offer.  The company that I work for has been breaking even for the last few years, and has brought in some consultants to give us advice on what to do.  I have felt that our company has made something of a leader to manager type shift in recent years, and I look forward to what these consultants will have to say.  But because they are managers themselves, I fear that the suggested changes may go even further in the management direction.  I found myself musing about Christ as leader and manager, and this is sort-of how it went:

The ideal leader says things like ‘come follow me’, ‘do the things you have seen me do’ and ‘even as I am’.  He says these things to his followers in order to take them somewhere.  He knows – and perhaps more importantly shows – the way.  In many respects He is the way.

The ideal manager knows how many followers He has, and if one is missing He brings them back.  He says things like ‘if ye are not one, ye are not mine’.  He does these things to keep everyone together, and stay organized.  He loves His followers, and will be with them always.

If an individual is mostly leader and no manager, he may lead the way, but if some do not keep up – oh well.  He that has ears to hear, let him hear.  This leader may get where he wants to go, dragging some followers and like-minded souls along the way.  But may lose some along the way.

If an in individual is mostly manager and no leader, he may keep followers together, but never actually get anywhere.  Be still.  This manager may keep all the individuals together, with a noose around their neck if he must.  But little real progress will happen.

Like so many things, balance is needed.  Yet it is often the extremes that get notice.  Businesses and sports teams seem to go back and forth with their coaches and management.  Being driven by every wave.  I hope my company and I can find the right balance somehow.

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2 Responses to “Leaders, Managers and Balance”


  1. 1 Paul January 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Eric, thanks for the post! The Nibley speech you cite was his address at my BYU graduation. It was great then, and was great to re-read today.

    It’s easy to see what large businesses seek managers, but why they must be led by leaders. There’s a role for both, since the manager can facilitate movement in the leader’s direction. Of course “management” stifles innovation, and innovation is one of the key products of the business leader.

    In the gospel sense, may we have more leaders than managers — more men and women working out of inspiration than statistical drivers. The recent handbook training seemed to drive this point home, that we need to encourage local leaders to lead with inspiriation and vision, rather than manage existing programs (within an established framework, of course).

  2. 2 Eric Nielson January 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I agree Paul. Thanks for commenting.


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