The Four Stages of Visionary Leadership

I have reflected over a decade on the question of how visionaries develop. These are some initial thoughts that I want to share with blog readers as I think out loud a bit. I would really appreciate your comments and input toward the development of these ideas.

Stage One: VISION CATCHING

Every visionary leaders starts by following someone else’s vision. Here, the fundamental practice of following well precedes and develops the ability to lead well. During this time, a future visionary learns to submit to godly authority. In this stage the future visionary’s style is shaped by the strengths and limitation of the lead visionary. Strengths provide a foundational modeling opportunity. Limitations and weakness forge convictions that will eventually shape the values of the future leader.

Stage Two VISION CASTING

Eventually the visionary leader starts casting vision themselves. There are three nuances of how this vision relates to the the prior vision-catching content. In other words, most of early vision casting is found “underneath” the vision of a leader and/or organization of the developing visionary. The visionary casts vision: a) in support of, b) in relation to, and finally c) in contrast with.

  • In Support Of: The first practice is recasting the vision that already exists. The visionary is articulating and communicating what was given to them. The art of communication is matured as commitment, passion and ownership of the vision progresses. For example, a student pastor shares the greater vision of the church he has been serving for the last two years with his seminary buddies.
  • In Relation To: Eventually the emerging visionary will create and develop their own initiatives or ministry models within the larger vision. This mini-step takes the art of visionary leadership to a new level. As a visionary leader “builds” within their “domain” of the larger ministry they are responsible to relate what they are doing to the bigger picture. That is, they are advancing and enhancing the vision that they “caught” by casting new vision for their team, event, group, area or department. Our student pastor, for example, is recruiting two dozen new volunteer leaders for a high-school, gospel saturation strategy he developed. This strategy and mini-vision is developed in concert with the broader church vision.
  • 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.

Stage Four: DESTINY STEWARDING

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.

At this stage it’s easy for current names to come to mind like Rick Warren or Bill Hybels or 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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Elder Chris Allen — 03/20/14 11:38 am

** I think the Area that Needs the most care, Prayer & Training is the 'In Contrast to Vision Casting'. If not fully understood, not only can the Senior Pastor feel rejected or betrayed, the Student Pastor can feel a sense of Guilt with can turn into a sense of rebellion. During this time, the Student Pastor may be in need of even more guidance from the Senior Pastor, but to many times the Relationship becomes Strained & distant.

klministriesKay Lenear — 03/20/14 10:03 am

A visionary must be given the gift of seeing through the Lord's eyes, in fact, a visionary must have his eyes. This is what the Lord has said to me.

Recent Comments
I'm lost, to say the least! As a new pastor, taking over a newly started church I have read just about everything there is to learn what I can do to grow the church. I truly beleive that those attending our church are friendly and sincere. So that can't be the issue. I have read all the comments to this article and I feel that most churches will never have a fair chance! We are a VERY small church, so we don't have a children's church (yet). So if a family comes and gets upset that we don't have a children's church for them to put their children into, we lose! We do provide things for their kids to do during the service and even have an option for their kids to be in a different room, if they don't want their kids to sit with them. We are also such a small church that we don't have a worship team/band/etc. Our worship music comes from music videos. The congregation we do have likes it this way, but of course we would love to have a worhsip team. So, if someone comes to our church and is upset that we don't have live music, we lose! The point I am trying to make is that when people come in with preconceived ideas of what a church should be like, they will never find a church home, unless they find a church who's goal is to entertain! Every Sunday our message comes from the Bible, so that can't be a complaint for someone, so instead, people leave the church and never come back because they want more from a church: they don't want friendly people who are following the Word of God; they want a church that give them something (a babysitter for their kid, entertainment, free gifts, etc.) I'm sorry if sound cynical, I truly want everyone to hear the Good News and learn about Christ's love, but if they come in looking for something else, then the church will always lose!
 
— JAG
 
Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
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Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 

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