by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 1/4/08.
Typically in our churches we have (three types of leaders):
They see the need and the future. They have a limited idea of how to get there, but they have been exposed to various models to accomplish change. However, strategic leaders do not typically have the patience to analyze, fine-tune, crunch-the-numbers, tweak, perfect, evaluate and adjust a strategy. Subsequently, strategic leaders often try to just apply (e.g. franchise) a strategy that has worked elsewhere. The strategic leader may purchase step-by-step manuals for operational leaders. And while this is a good starting place, because tactical leaders who can adjust the methodology for the church’s own unique scenario are not involved, the canned strategy is often abandoned with people saying “that doesn’t work here.” Again, the problem is not the strategic leaders or the operational leaders. They are both doing their jobs. The problem is created because an important linking and planning element of leaders is missing: the tactical leaders and their organizational skills.
They then become our crucial … and missing link in effective change. If they are missing, change strategies are not adapted to the local context and the process is unorganized. They are the key go-betweens among the strategic and operational leaders. Tactical leaders have the requisite skills of analysis, step-by-step planning, numbercrunching, and detail management to bring a change to fruition. This is the contribution of the tactical leaders.
In military jargon these are the “boots on the ground,” meaning the frontline workers who must adjust the tactics they are given. They are relational teams of workers, who derive much of their satisfaction from both their teammates and their visible accomplishments. Operational leaders may also volunteer to be tactical leaders, because relationships are so important to them they do not want to see the strategic leader in a quandary. They may say something like “Pastor, I know you are in a spot here. So I’ll help you out.” If an operational leader says this, interview that person and then if this operational leaders does not have the analytical, diagnostic and methodical skills to create and manage an elaborate plan, graciously decline their offer. To thrust operational leaders into tactical positions will frustrate them, and eventually due to their gracious and relational nature, they will quietly fade away from their failed tactical task.
Change is Difficult Because Tactical Leaders Are Missing
Why then does change so often fail in congregations? It has been my observation that it is because strategic leaders (often pastors) try to orchestrate the tactical process. Often if a strategic leader in the role of a pastor or a department head tries to move the church forward with some change, the congregants will become frustrated because of a lack of precision in the plan. The plan to them will appear too nebulous and imprecise.
At the same time the strategic leader will expect the relationally-orientated operational leaders to create a plan. And though the operational leaders are the key to the success of the process, their emphasis upon relationships usually trumps their interest in the administrative details, budgeting, volunteer recruitment and evaluation that is required.
The answer is that change needs the critical link between strategic leader and operational leaders: tactical leadership. Therefore, to succeed with change, it is important that at the outset of this book the pastor look around him or her develop those tactical leaders who can map-out the change processes outlined in this book, and who will enjoy doing so.
Questions for Discovering YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE mix:
1. What kind of tasks do you enjoy?
(Circle only those letters that correspond to tasks you greatly enjoy.)
a. Dreaming about the future.
b. Preparing a budget.
c. Getting to know a person you work with.
d. Graphing on paper a new plan.
e. Analyzing what when wrong with a past strategy.
f. Creating a visual map of the planning process.
g. Balancing your checkbook.
h. Sharing about your family history.
i. Reading books on new ideas.
j. Attending seminars on creativity.
k. Tackling a numerical problem.
l. Reading books on history.
m. Researching costs associated with a project.
n. Creating a survey.
o. Taking a survey.
p. Leading under 12 people on a project.
q. Recording the minutes of a meeting.
r. Loading and adjusting new software on your computer.
s. Designing ways to better communicate an idea.
t. Relaxing by sharing with friends about hobbies.
u. Relaxing by sharing with friends about what when wrong.
v. Relaxing by dreaming with friends about new ideas.
w. Working on a hobby with a few closer friends.
x. You share your personal feelings easily with others.
y. You share your new ideas easily with others.
z. You like to get a job done with a minimum of fuss.
TOTAL BELOW: For each letter you circled, put a check in the corresponding box below. You may be primarily comfortable with a leader style associated with the box that contains the most checkmarks.
Operational Leaders most likely checked boxes: C, H, P, T, W, X, Z,
Tactical Leaders: B, D, E, F, G, K, M, N, Q, R, S, U
Strategic Leaders: A, I, J, L, O, V, Y
Adapted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church by Bob Whitesel (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007. Download the entire chapter here >> BOOK BW EXCERPT CR Change Reaction Chpt.2 STO Leaders ©Dr.Whitesel
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