There is much written in the business world about the difference between leaders and managers. From the Havard Bussines Review:

Managers and leaders are two very different types of people. Managers’ goals arise out of necessities rather than desires; they excel at defusing conflicts between individuals or departments, placating all sides while ensuring that an organization’s day-to-day business gets done. Leaders, on the other hand, adopt personal, active attitudes toward goals. They look for the opportunities and rewards that lie around the corner, inspiring subordinates and firing up the creative process with their own energy. Their relationships with employees and coworkers are intense, and their working environment is often chaotic.

Harvard Business Review

One could of course then apply this to church leaders/managers. Hugh Nibley gave a very famous Commencement speech at BYU where he talked about the difference in Leaders and Managers. He listed some key differences here:

Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. For managers are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization men and team players, dedicated to the establishment.

The leader, for example, has a passion for equality. We think of great generals from David and Alexander on down, sharing their beans or maza with their men, calling them by their first names, marching along with them in the heat, sleeping on the ground, and first over the wall. A famous ode by a long-suffering Greek soldier, Archilochus, reminds us that the men in the ranks are not fooled for an instant by the executive type who thinks he is a leader.

For the manager, on the other hand, the idea of equality is repugnant and indeed counterproductive. Where promotion, perks, privilege, and power are the name of the game, awe and reverence for rank is everything, the inspiration and motivation of all good men. Where would management be without the inflexible paper processing, dress standards, attention to proper social, political, and religious affiliation, vigilant watch over habits and attitudes, and so forth, that gratify the stockholders and satisfy security?

Hugh Nibley, BYU 1983

It is not to hard to figure which category the current leadership management of the church fits in. Does any of the current Q15 seem to be “movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises” I don’t see much of that. What I do see is a bunch of managers that are “safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization men and team players, dedicated to the establishment”.

How does the current management of the church do with some of Brother Nibley’s other items?

Equality is repugnant: Check (LGBTQ, Females and the priesthood, etc)

Inflexible Paper Processing: Check

Dress Standards: Check

Attention to proper social/political affiliation: check

Vigilant watch over habits: Check

Brother Nibley then went on to say Joseph Smith was a great leader, but not so good manager and Brigham Young was a great a manager.

I’ve had about 18 bishops since I turned 8, including myself as one of them. Some of them were leaders, and some were managers, and some were a mixture of both. My father once served as a counselor to a bishop who was a great leader, but a very poor manager. I remember him coming home from bishopric meeting so frustrated. He would tell anybody that would listen that Bishop Smith just spent 45 minutes in the meeting opening each piece of mail he had received as a bishop (way before the internet/e-mail) and then deciding what to do with each.

Obviously a good bishop needs to be part leader and part manager, although they get training in neither (at least I didn’t, things could have changed in the last 20 years.). I was probably 70/30 (leader/manager). I didn’t like the paperwork, didn’t like the “safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization”. As such, I got in trouble with my Stake President on more than one occasion. But my attitude was: “what’s the worst they can do to me, fire me?”. That is pretty much what they did, at the exact five year mark. [1]

What kind of bishop do you currently have? What kind have you had in the past? Do you think the church in it’s current state as a large cooperation needs managers or leaders in the Q15, or maybe a mixture of both? In the current Q15, which ones are leaders and which are managers? And lastly, do you think Bother Nibley could get away with that same speech today at BYU?

[1] I learned from a friend who has been a stake president, that SLC pushes back on releasing bishops before the five year mark unless they moved or something serious happened. For anything else, the word back from SLC is “you need to train them better if there are problems”.