The Four Stages of Visionary Leadership

By Will Mancini
  • In Contrast With: This is the positive step of beginning to sense a shift in calling or being attracted to a new ministry vehicle. While this is not an eventual reality for all visionary leaders it will happen for many of them. And by the way, it’s difficult for many senior leaders to watch this happen without sensing betrayal or hurt. This is normal. Yet from God’s perspective, isn’t it natural that a strong emerging visionary will develop completely a new “holy discontent?” Won’t he see new problems and want to find new solutions? The term “in contrast with” is helpful because oftentimes in the mind of the developing visionary, the language of the new is contrasted with and compared to the existing vision. (Hence we talk about missional vs. attractional approaches  or going to unreached people groups vs. growing an existing flock.) For example the student pastor starts dreaming of planting a different kind of church in contrast with the vision he has been serving in.

Stage Three: VISION CARRYING

At this pivotal place, the vision casting stage has matured to a point of full ownership, most often embodied by the senior position or lead role. Hence, not every visionary leaders reaches this point. And it is wrong, in my opinion, to expect that all visionary leaders should aspire to. (Or we would have not visionary second-chair leaders or visionary teams.)

The greatest experiential difference for the vision carrier is the increasing awareness that the vision came from God not himself. Over time, a greater convergence of spiritual maturity, life circumstances, and divine relationships unveil how little the vision truly emerged from within. Eventually he sees how God was orchestrating the events of life to the point that he knows that God himself gave him a vision to carry. Of course his practice of vision-casting hits full-bloom as the vision grows and expands from an ever-strengthening identity and awareness of God calling.

The final stage is one that fewer leaders reach because it is found only with unusual favor AND demonstrated success as a vision carrier over a long time. The success builds a platform of extraordinary influence beyond what was ever imagined. Hence, I believe this stage is experience by leaders in or after their fifties. The feeling of “carrying” a vision for a time, which is in itself a stewardship, moves to an even greater awareness of unplanned, yet God-ordained impact. For the best leaders, this enables them to guard a humble spirit and embrace a broader influence. For example the student pastor plants a church that becomes a church planting movement, or or transforms a city or adopts an unreached people group. At this stage, decades of vision carrying are seen from a different and more enlightened perspective.Stage Four: DESTINY STEWARDING

At this stage it’s easy for current names to come to mind like Rick Warren or Bill Hybelsor T.D. Jakes or Mark Driscoll or Andy Stanley. But I believe there are thousands and thousands of leaders who reach this point, that we will never read about. Despite tremendous impact, they steward a more silent destiny.

So how do you react to this initial framing of these stages? Specifically how does this match up to your personal experience? What would you add or tweak or take away?  Thanks for considering a response.

 

Will Mancini

Will Mancini emerged from the trenches of local church leadership to found Auxano, a first-of-kind consulting ministry that focuses on vision clarity. As a “clarity evangelist,” Will has served as vision architect for hundreds of churches across the country including the leading churches within Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Non-denominational settings. His clients include notable organizations like Leadership Network and Upward Unlimited and pastors like Chuck Swindoll and Max Lucado. Will’s style blends the best of three worlds: the process thinking from the discipline of engineering, the communications savvy as an ad agency executive, and the practical theology as a pastoral leader. His pastoral experience includes helping lead two different congregations to over 3,000 in weekend attendance in 10 years- Clear Creek Community Church and FaithBridge UMC. Will’s education includes a ThM in Pastoral Leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Penn State. He is the author of Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture and Create Movement, a Leadership Network Publication, and of Building Leaders. Check out the awesome free resource: Church Unique Summary