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Great Speaker. Lousy Leader.

Pastor Bob really knows how to captivate an audience with his sermons. People say he’s a “great communicator.” And many people assume that Pastor Bob’s eloquence also means he’s a great leader of his people.

But, actually, when it comes to leadership, Pastor Bob is a train wreck. He may be called the “lead pastor,” but he doesn’t lead. His staff members and volunteers, though they admire his speaking skills, feel detached, misunderstood, unappreciated, under-communicated to, under-supported, and aimless.

How can this be? It’s a matter of gifting. Many who have been given great oratorical gifts often seem to lack leadership gifts. (And vice versa.) These two giftings do not share the same characteristics or basic core elements. So it really should be no wonder that that the two do not often appear dominantly in the same person.

Those considered as gifted speakers are usually highly artistic. They excel in the performance art of public speaking. They’re entertaining, and often inspiring. They instinctively know how to assemble and deliver a spoken message that will captivate an audience.

Those who exhibit great leadership gifts excel in the disciplines of administration, asset allocation, human relations, goal-setting, vision-casting, and problem-solving. They instinctively know how to enlist and empower a team to accomplish great things together.

When it comes to these two gifts, it often seems the more a person is gifted in one, the less he or she is gifted in the other. And this gift allocation is not limited to ministry settings. Think of those gifted in the performance art of acting. Few of the great actors would make outstanding company leaders. And few great CEOs would excel in a lead role on stage or screen. They’re just not wired that way.

There are exceptions, of course. But, for the vast majority, it’s unrealistic to assume these two gifts get automatically and abundantly bundled into the same person.

So, how does a ministry provide great messages and great leadership? Well, training can help. But usually the situation calls for the realization that different people are required for different roles. In many churches that means the main speaker/preacher needs to acknowledge a deficiency in leadership disciplines, and allow others to provide leadership services.

That may require some serious self-examination. Look for natural tendencies. For example, good leaders instinctively:

  • Select staff whose expertise exceeds the leader’s.
  • Meet regularly (weekly) with staff members to support, encourage, evaluate, and coach.
  • Listen to staff’s personal concerns and pray with them.
  • Generously give away responsibility and power to others.
  • Promptly address staff performance issues, individually, face to face, with tact and love.
  • Clearly and simply communicate the mission and vision to all.
  • Allocate resources (people, things and money) according to the mission’s priorities.
  • Promote necessary change, and pro-actively manage the ever-present change resisters.
  • Creatively solve problems.
  • Resolve conflicts.
  • Keep cool under pressure.
  • Personally accept responsibility when things fail; give credit to the team when things succeed.
  • Exude servanthood.
  • Learn from others.
  • Listen abundantly.
  • Pray consistently.
  • Give thanks for the gifts God has given you. And give thanks for the gifts God has given to somebody else.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”

4 thoughts on “Great Speaker. Lousy Leader.

  1. She/he can share the speaking through open sharing and not monopolize it through monologue.

  2. It should be no secret that no one person can embody all the modern church expects of it’s leaders. Ephesians 4:11-13 makes it clear that a community of believers should have multiple “leaders”, with only Jesus above us.

  3. A great article. I have rarely seen a preacher/teacher that also has gifts and talents of leading and managing. The fault probably lies in the dysfunctional manner we have of organizing ourselves based, i suppose, on the Roman Catholic approach.

    In America we still organize our ministry according to the Circuit Riders of pioneer days. Church is always one person. usually a male, speaking evangelistically to a group of rough hewn, uneducated people sitting passively to receive the wisdom of an educated man. It is an awful model.

    As an educator in high school and college I see organizing ministry like a school with graded equipping of disciples and sending them out to minister. Gifted teachers and speakers are allowed to do that without attempting to run the school system.

  4. Your article made me appreciate our pastor even more. He is an excellent speaker, teacher and manager. We absolutely will not let his name get out so other churches will want him. Maybe we should be giving him a bigger raise this year. Thanks…he is a male speaking evangelistically to us, but we are far from the rough hewn uneducated people sitting passively …he has us all working at something in our community to make things better for many people.

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Great Speaker. Lousy Leader.

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