I have had this thought for a while, but it has come into focus lately through Marko’s posts about Leading Without Power. A lot of what people say about leadership could also apply to discipleship. I’m not alone apparently, because Mark Riddle has said the same repeatedly. So I started poking around.
There are many meanings for the word leadership. The best guess I can give is the, “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (wikipedia). What confuses leadership is the many different models of leadership. There is school of three classical styles, emergent leadership, transactional leadership, etc. There are probably as many ideas about leadership as there are leaders out there. Safe bet for me is someone with followers.
Discipleship is similar. It requires followers and like leadership encompasses influence, aid and support in accomplishment. The way discipleship functions can also be fairly divergent. Some people use discipleship as a leadership building platform, some as spiritual formation and some as education. So the similarities are there to draw on.
Similarities – both leadership and discipleship sometimes (in my view, if done well):
- Guide people
- Realize and utilize talents
- Set goals and outcomes
- Provides direction in achieving goals
- Has plans and measurables
How do they differ?
- Internal or external goals
Generally (as in, I am making a huge generalization, but one I believe mostly true), the goals of leadership are focused on external things. Usually it is developing a product, event, service or whatever. Leadership has an external focus on what is seen and more easily controlled.
Discipleship is internal. It’s goal is to develop the person as the created image of God. Doing this relies on the internal workings of the person and how that plays out in the world. Over and over again, you see Jesus, Paul, Peter and others working with people to help them realize who they are because of their relationship with God.
I’m sure there are other way that they differ, but for me, this is the one that counts. When I lead, I want to see outcomes and effectiveness. When I disciple, I have to realize my limitations and allow God to change what’s inside a person. It’s a slower process to disciple, but well worth it.