Who is your political hero?
George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? JFK? Ronald Reagan? Barack Obama?
My personal favorite among politicians is former British prime minister Winston Churchill, who saved the West from the iron will and evil intentions of Adolph Hitler.
After being in political exile for years, England turned to Churchill to prevent Hitler from overtaking Great Britain during the Second World War. Churchill’s expert leadership behind-the-scenes, coupled with his fierce and inspiring speeches in public, rallied the spirit of the British people to defeat German’s Fuhrer.
Churchill was both a great leader and a great communicator … but such greatness is uncommon.
Most people are either gifted leaders or gifted teachers, not both.
Let me contrast the two groups in three ways:
First, leaders tend to see the future clearly, while teachers tend to see the past clearly.
When George H. W. Bush was President, he confessed he had trouble with “the vision thing.” He wasn’t sure where he wanted to take the country, but Bill Clinton was sure, and defeated Bush for President in 1992.
Leaders have to be able to see the future clearly and describe it to others.
By contrast, teachers see the past clearly and can accurately describe its lessons.
I have always had trouble envisioning the future. As a leader, I shied away from 5-year plans because they were illusory to me. I usually knew the next thing to do … but not necessarily the next thing after that.
But the past … that’s very real to me. For many of the special experiences in my life, I can recall the date, the place, the weather, the people involved … all kinds of stuff.
For example, I remember when Nolan Ryan set the all-time season strikeout record. It happened on a Thursday night in September 1973. The Angels played the Twins in Anaheim. Going into the game, Ryan had 367 strikeouts … and was trying to beat the all-time record of 382 set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. After 9 innings, Ryan had 15 strikeouts (tying the record), but the game itself was tied. Ryan couldn’t get that last strikeout in the 10th inning, and with two outs in the 11th, he still didn’t have it. In fact, he was laboring with each pitch. But he struck out Rich Reese of the Twins on a very high fastball for Number 383.
How do I remember all that? I was there … with some friends … sitting in the upper deck down the left field line. That event occurred 39 years ago … but I remember it like it was yesterday. That memory seems unremarkable to me, but others have told me they’re amazed I can recall those things.
But it’s natural for a teacher.
Second, leaders tend to work with groups, while teachers tend to work alone.
I once heard Pastor Bill Hybels describe ten types of leaders. He said the leaders who build the big churches are the kind of leaders who can put teams together quickly. They recruit people, give them a charter, and turn them loose … and then do it again … and again … and again.
The best leaders like being with people. They feed off their energy and ideas.
By contrast, teachers prefer to work alone. They like to reflect, and do research, and write … and then march into a classroom or worship center and speak to a group on their own … without assistance.
Here’s the perfect day in my work life:
It’s raining and I’m confined to my study. I comb my bookshelves for relevant books on a passage or topic and pull out 15 of them. Slowly and methodically, I read sections of each book … not to steal what someone else has written, but to stimulate my own thinking. Without effort, an outline begins to form in my head. I put it on paper and begin to work it over.
While that process is happening, I don’t want anybody to interrupt me. It’s just me and God and the books and some ideas.
That’s the reseach end … but I also love delivering the message to a group of people … especially if we can enjoy interaction. However, without the research, the teaching time isn’t nearly as much fun … or productive.
Third, leaders tend to be repetitive, but teachers like to say things once.
I remember learning that churchgoers need to be reminded of a pastor’s vision every thirty days. The pastor needs to remind people … over and over again … why that church exists and where it’s going.
The leader may do this in a variety of ways … like slogans, symbols, stories … but he has to remind people constantly why the church is doing what it’s doing.
By contrast, teachers hate saying the same thing over and over. The repetition bores them.
Teachers like to keep truth fresh … illustrating and applying it in countless ways.
Recently I engaged in a painful activity: I re-read some sermons I preached a few years back.
When a message was good, it was full of fresh stories and thoughts.
When a message wasn’t very good, I was overly repetitive and predictable.
An effective leader needs to be repetitive, but an effective teacher longs to be original.
Jesus was both a great leader and a master teacher. He led His disciples while teaching the masses. He combined the two disciplines better than anyone who has ever lived.
So remember … your pastor is probably a gifted leader or a gifted teacher … and he gravitates toward the one he does best.
And he’ll probably receive far more criticism in his non-gifted area.
So if you think he falls short in one area, cut him some slack.
Because not all great leaders are great teachers … and not all great teachers are great leaders.
While you can usually tell if someone is a great teacher right away, the fruit of leadership only happens long-term.
What are your thoughts on these two disciplines?