Power Under Control

Towards a Leader, Not a Manager

Dan Hodge | Jan 12, 2005

I grew up in West Texas. I started playing football when I was twelve years old. If you’re thinking, “That’s not that young, my kid started playing at the same age,” then I would tell you that this was competitive football against other schools with a homecoming game, cheerleaders, band, and press coverage. Texans are serious about their football.

I had a coach that was more like a marine drill sergeant from the movie Full Metal Jacket. If you’ve seen that movie you know what I mean. He had played in the NFL for the Eagles and had eventually been cut, therefore ending up in our little po-dunk town. He would yell at us and sit in his little cart as we ran laps around the field. He was also known to grab kids he did not like and hit them! He divided the team into several groups. One group was just for the lineman, which included me. There, he would assign different kids to lead the group, which would in turn report to him. These leaders acted like watchdogs. If we missed a block, then they would assign us 20 push-ups and make us run the bleachers. They mimicked the coach’s attitude of control and power—not to mention every known curse word.

Contrastingly, when I got to high school football, I had moved out to California and had a much different experience. The coach I had, who was still very vocal and demanding, used few curse words. When things went wrong, he would get in the mess with us and help us out—on and off the field. He was the kind of person that you just wanted to play for, but more importantly, be around. He, too, played in the NFL—the Oakland Raiders. But his attitude was different. He, too, assigned different leaders for different parts of the team, but each leader emulated his attitude and actions. I know—I was one of them. Yes, there were still laps around the field and sprints up the bleachers, but it was not uncommon for coach to be right there with us, running, cheering us on, and letting us know that we had goals to be met and accomplished—and that he would be there with us as they were met.

There is a sharp contrast between the two coaches. They both were committed to winning. They both held us to high standards. However, one coach did things with you and the other simply told you what to do. One coach lived with you; the other merely lived with you from 3-6 pm on practice days. One coach was involved with your life while the other wanted to control it.

Some of these same contrasting qualities are present in the style and types of leadership some of us practice. Respected leadership theorists Richard Hughes, Robert Ginnett, and Gordon J. Curphy make the distinction between leaders and managers. If we are going to build up the next generation of young leaders, then we must clearly understand the differences between these contrasting terms.

Leaders & Managers Defined

There are some strikingly sharp differences between leaders and managers. Here are some contrasting traits of each: [[Taken from Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy (2003), Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience (Mc Graw Hill) 38.]]

“Leaders create environments within which followers’ innovations and creative contributions are welcome. Followers feel a stake in shaping something new, not just maintaining a status quo.” [[Ibid.p.39.]] Leaders are the people that go and create a new and better environment in which to work. More importantly, they are the kinds of people that other people want to follow and be with. The leader will prepare the follower [[The follower is simply the person who “follows” the leader and is being trained to move into a position of leadership. The follower does not need to be “controlled” by the leader, if the leader is good, the follower will want and desire to follow.]] to be a future leader; in other words, leaders will duplicate themselves in others. [[For a broader look into how followers and leaders interact, see Edgar Elliston & Timothy Kauffman (1993), Developing Leaders for Urban Ministries, Peter Lang Libraries: pp. 87-88.]]

Leaders are the types of people that others want to be around. Managers are the types that merely make others want to hide their activity for fear of criticism. Managers want control over a group of people. Leaders seek to use their power for the good of the group and for helping others. [[The power dynamic is an interesting phenomenon that could potentially drive many “managers” in a negative way. When power is misused, problems occur such as those you see within a “manager” complex. According to Elliston (1992), Home Grown Leaders (William Carey Library), there are 3 types of power that a leader uses to lead effectively. The 3 are not in contradiction of each other, and, if used properly, can effectively lead people; when abused, these powers become a “thorn” in not only the follower’s side, but also the ministry/ organizations. The 3 powers are: Physical Power—hands on power; Social Power—the potential for influence between persons and social structures; Spiritual Power—The source of God and the connection to God &how that leader uses that power (pp.50-54).]] Hughes, Ginnett, and Curphy state, “Managers motivate followers more with extrinsic, even contractual consequences, both positive and negative. Managers tend to accept the definitions of situations presented to them.” [[Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy (2003), Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience, 40.]]

The Balance

There needs to be a balance between a great leader and a good manager. At times there are situations in which a leader must take charge and lead strongly. When I was working with Young Life, we had a situation in which a young lady was being abused by her live-in cousin. He would enter her room at least twice a week and sexually abuse her. She thought this was normal. As she told us, we knew that there had to be immediate action; she was still involved in the situation and needed help. The team wanted to work with the young lady and deal directly with her. I felt that if we did not take immediate action, this young lady could be further hurt and quite possibly suffer even more harm. I made a conscious decision to report the situation to the police, and have an immediate discussion with her guardians. This proved to be the best idea, as we found out later that the young man was planning to gang rape her with friends that week.

Moving Towards Leadership: The Leader

As we move towards “leading” and not managing our team, we must consider several items, especially as we develop young leaders in our communities. According to Hughes, Ginnet, and Curphy, managers tend not to take into account the group, areas of complexity, others’ feelings, and the general consequences of their decisions. Leaders, alternatively, do. Good leaders take into account those issues and more. Leith Anderson gives us some great examples of the directions to work towards as we lead out in complexity: [[This concepts are adapted from Leith Anderson (1999), Leadership that Works: Hope and Direction for Church and Parachurch Leaders in Today’s Complex World (Bethany Press), 63-68.]]

1. Acknowledge Complexity: If we are to be successful and train the next generation of leaders, we must be ready to acknowledge the reality of complexity. Situations such as gay marriage, abortion after a rape, and even the Bible are layered (i.e., complex) and require deep wisdom and a reluctance of the leader to oversimplify such issues. Managers tend to ignore complexity, give simple responses to multifaceted problems, and when problems arise, often blame others. [[See Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy (2003), Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience (Mc Graw Hill), 42-44.]]

2. Consider the Entire System: When you change the unit, the whole system is affected. One of the dangers of leading is that the leader may at times not consider or take into account the consequences of their decisions. I used to double as an I.T. guy in a ministry. One of the most frustrating things that would occur was when my boss would want to change one little thing on a brochure or the website, and believe that it was just a simple push of a button. He did not take into account the fact that I had already spent three hours on the project and now would have to spend another two making the changes. A leader must have enough foresight to see ahead and see the big picture.

3. Adapt A Personal Philosophy: In contrast, there must be a point at which a decision is made and sometimes the group will not agree. “To make the many decisions called for, the leader must exclude a majority of the alternatives or the decision will be made by inaction and default.” [[Ibid. p. 66.]] The leader must begin to build a process and a platform for decision-making. To begin, Leith Anderson suggests trying to answer these questions about the kind of decision-making process you seek to develop:

  • What is your theological system?
  • What is your philosophy of leadership?
  • What are your primary goals?
  • What are you unwilling to do?

This will enhance your own personal philosophy. Some answers will be long and complex, others will be simple. But to get a feel for where you are, these fundamental questions will assist you as you develop as a leader. Cautions that you should consider as you move ahead include: [[Ibid. p. 67.]]

  • Fundamental changes in leaders are potentially destabilizing to organizations and to the people they lead.
  • Don’t change too often.
  • Give followers time to catch up.
  • A good leader has a good personal philosophy that they share with their team, but also commit to helping the team develop their own philosophy.

Moving Towards Leadership: The Follower

I would argue that discipleship is a foundational piece to developing young leaders for our communities. Remember, the emerging leader is often only as good as the leader in charge. They often cannot grow into someone greater than their mentor if all they ever see is a manager and the pride typically associated with that leadership style.

In Transforming Discipleship, Greg Ogden makes a strong argument for “postmodern” discipleship with young people. Ogden discusses three major ingredients that bring about what he describes as a “hot-house” effect, where the Holy Spirit enters and brings about a rapid growth toward Christlikeness. [[Taken from Greg Ogden, Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples A Few at A Time (Inter Varsity Press), 153-4.]] These can be summarized in the following biblical principles: when we (1) open our hearts in transparent trust to each other, (2) around the truth of God’s word, and (3) in the spirit of mutual accountability, we are in the Holy Spirit’s “hothouse” of transformation. [[Ibid. p. 154.]]

Let us take a brief glance at these three basic ingredients for a “hothouse” [[The “hot house” affect refers to when rapid growth occurs. Greg Ogden argues that in triad relationships, the right “climate” conditions occur for people to grow rapidly as in a traditional garden hothouse, “…with entry into a triad there is a gear shift to warp speed” (Ogden 2003: 153).]] and how they might happen for those of us who work in urban youth ministry:

1. Transparent Trust: in the hood and in hip-hop culture as a whole, nothing is regarded more sacred than trust and true authentic relationships. If your business (i.e., your personal life or personal affairs) is all over the streets, then you are vulnerable, and that is not good. Over the years I have seen that many kids and adults in the church could not keep their mouths closed when it came to private matters; this did a lot of harm. In a triad discipleship [[Greg Ogden discusses using a triad, or a three-person group, discipleship instead of using programs or a large group for discipleship. Triads involve a leader and two others that are “sold-into” the idea of a discipleship. The relationship are transparent and informal; making it an attraction for “postmoderns” (2003: Chapter 6) Ogden also discusses that in a triad discipleship, there can be multiplication or reproduction, an intimate relationship, accountability, the incorporation of the biblical message, and a strong sense and need for spiritual disciplines (2003: 14-18).]] , meaning a discipleship group with one leader and two others, the group is small enough that trust is built and real sharing happens. The temptation for youth workers is to have the entire group involved in a bible study or discipleship program. While this may be admirable, the numbers are generally too large for trust building. As you walk with one another through difficult times in smaller groups, people become better reflective listeners who assist each other in hearing God’s guidance in life’s complexities, and each has an open place to confess sins in a “safe” place. [[Ibid. pp 155-6.]]

2. The Truth of God’s Word: So many young people have a distorted view of God and salvation. In the hood, there are many theories about who Jesus is. Through a triad discipleship group, young and old alike are able to ask questions that they would normally not be able to in a large group setting. In the group, people are able to learn reproof, correction, and be trained in the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). They are able to rely on God’s word and not the church’s (which aren’t necessarily the same). Authentic Christian spirituality is necessary and begins to happen in a small group. Bruce Demarest says that Christian spirituality concerns the shaping of our inner beings into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Certainly, it involves human effort, but it relies and trusts in the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which will prompt and empower us to live out the Savior’s values in service to others. [[Taken from Bruce Demarest (1999) Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality (NavPress), 70.]]

3. Mutual Accountability: I used to take hundreds of students to camp every summer. Every summer without fail, a handful would make a commitment to Christ. We would be excited and genuinely happy for them. But upon returning to hell in their home, they would often stop coming to church, the smoking and sex started back up, the gang banging would start over again, and the individual would feel guilty to the point of avoiding all contact with us. There was very little accountability from us for the young person. As in the church, most are only concerned with the “decision” of salvation and not the “process” of salvation (because that’s what we tend to emphasize). Through triads, there is a mutual and willing decision to abide by certain standards and a voluntary submission of oneself to a review by others in which one’s performance is evaluated in light of these standards. [[ Taken from Greg Ogden, 168. It should be noted here that there must be a mutual agreement with the person. What happens so many times is that people are forced into discipleship programs that they never really wanted to be a part of in the first place. Greg Ogden (2003: 179-180) argues that if this is apparent—that the person really does not want to be in the group and is “flaking”—then it is time to ask that person to leave and come back when he or she is ready. In the hood, this will happen often; not everyone is ready for discipleship, even those that appear to have made a sold decision for Christ.]] This way, the focus shifts from the pastor or group leader and lands on the whole group. Everyone is held accountable to the set standard.

In general, the church and managerial leaders view disciple-making like this [[Adapted from Greg Ogden, 2003: 123).]] :


Missing from this approach is the priority of relationships. Sure, there is the possibility that some may come to know Christ better, but there might not be a real commitment to grow in Him. What we have failed to appreciate is the power of being with others on an intimate basis over time. [[See Greg Ogden, 2003: 123; e.g. Charles Van Engen & Jude Tiersma (1994), God so Loves the City: Seeking A Theology for Urban Mission (MARC Publishing), 8-23 on growing community.]] Instead, we need to focus on conventional relationships (i.e., “hanging out” and simply being with people in their daily lives and everyday situations) as illustrated below [[Adapted from Greg Ogden, 2003: 124.]] :


This approach differs from the one prior in that instead of inviting people to a program or class, they are invited into a relationship of mutual love, transparency, and accountability. The middle box, time, is the hardest thing to do. It takes time and much, much waiting for true discipleship to happen and for the next generation of leaders to be developed in our communities. As young people are developed into leaders, they will tend to be attracted more to the coach I had when I moved to California—someone who lives with them every day. Deep down that’s what we all want.

Action Points:

  • Take a day or two and go rent Remember The Titans (2000), Brave Heart (1995), Tears of The Sun (2003), The Last Castle (2001), K-19 (2002), and Ladder 49 (2004). You may need to see these more than once. Keep notes about what stands out to you in terms of leadership. What are the kinds of leadership styles that emerge from each of these movies: managers or leaders? What are the differences? Would a managerial approach have been more appropriate in The Last Castle? Was a leader’s style needed more in K-19? What types of complexities were there for each leader and how did they overcome them or not? You might want to try watching these movies and answering these questions with your entire team.
  • Take a critical inventory of each element in your leadership style. Where do you need to improve? Do you have a personal philosophy? Why or why not? Does Greg Ogden’s triad discipleship make sense in your ministry? Why or why not?
  • Greg Ogden makes the argument that large numbers in a discipleship relationship are not good. He argues that we must move away from “programs” and begin to really understand relationships that extend beyond “business hours.” How difficult will it be to begin to move toward smaller groups in your ministry? What can you do to prepare yourself and other leaders for the transition?
Dan Hodge

Dan White Hodge, PhD is a dynamic speaker, scholar, Hip Hop theologian, urban worker, & racial bridge builder that connects Urban popular culture with daily life events. Dan has been an active member of the Hip Hop Community for over 20 years and continues to not only study the culture from both an academic and practical perspective, but live it as well. He has over 16 years of urban youth work experience having worked for Young Life and now working with undocumented peoples in Los Angeles with his wife Emily. Dan’s books are “Heaven Has A Ghetto: The Missiological Gospel and Theology of Tupac Amaru Shakur” (VDM Academic 2010) and “The Soul of Hip Hop: Rimbs Timbs & A Cultural Theology” (IVP August 2010).

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