by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Biblical Leadership Magazine, 12/19/20.
(Click the following link for a short, self-scoring questionnaire to discover your 3-STRand leadership mix: https://churchhealthwiki.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/3-strand-leadership-questionnaire-c2a9bobwhitesel-fillable.pdf)
To answer the question of why our leaders are not good at bringing about change, we discover the reason is because the tactical leaders—those key go-betweens among the strategic and relational leaders—are missing.
While both strategic and relational leaders are still needed, neither have the requisite skills of analysis, step-by-step planning, number-crunching and detail management to bring a change to fruition. This is the contribution of the tactical leaders. Thus, typically in our churches we have the following 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 relational 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 relational 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.
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.
Relational 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 a relational leader says this, interview that person. Then, if this relational leaders does not have the analytical, diagnostic and methodical skills to create and manage an elaborate plan, graciously decline their offer. To thrust relational leaders into tactical positions will frustrate them. 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 oriented leaders to create a plan. And though the relational 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 relational leaders—tactical leadership. Therefore, to succeed with change, it is important that the pastor develop those tactical leaders who can map-out the change processes.
This is the seventh article in a series of articles on 3-STRand Leadership. Check out the sixth, “Don’t make future plans without a tactical leader” by Bob Whitesel. Click here for footnotes.
Excerpted from Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church by Bob Whitesel (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007).
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