Swinging the pendulum away from vision

“Leadership as ‘vision’ has become another way of talking about exercising dominance and pushing other people around with your ideas…Vision has become a way of declaring dominance, of achieving alpha status and stats. Furthermore, ‘vision casting’ is most often nothing more than ‘strategic planning’ board games.” (Leonard Sweet, Summoned to Lead)
“Show me a leader without vision, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t going anywhere.” (John Maxwell)
“The leader’s job is to keep the projector focused, to keep the “big picture,” the overall purpose or vision of the organization, in view. (James Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge)

A few weeks ago, some pastors and I spent the day with Ed Stetzer in New York. By spending the day I actually mean spending most of the day before one of us (me) left to see Letterman…but that’s a different story.

The day was spent talking about church planting and revitalization. At one point I got Ed to talk a little about his book Comeback Churches. What are some of the key factors in seeing churches come alive again that are currently in the process of slow death?

Ed said that the research told him exactly what he didn’t want to hear. We are so sick of CEO-style leadership in the church, and all the pro-leadership propaganda, that many of us – including me – resonate strongly with Leonard Sweet’s criticism of vision above. But contrary to what he wanted to discover, Stetzer found, “Comeback leaders agreed that having a clear and compelling vision was foundational in the transformation of their churches.”

In New York, Ed said that the pendulum has swung too far the other way against vision. Don’t tear everything down, Ed said, because you didn’t invent it. The statement “Everything rises and falls on leadership” is true, even though our image of leader should be that of an orr-master – someone who sits up front and gets everyone to pull together – rather than as Superman.

I didn’t enjoy hearing Ed saying these things, but I wonder if he’s right. I’m so sick of strategic planning masquerading as true transformation, but I think I’ve caught myself going to the opposite extreme.

What do you think? Do we need to rediscover a model of leadership within the church that avoids CEO-type alpha leadership, but still makes room for vision? Has the pendulum indeed swung too far away from vision?

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada