“Developing Leaders, Not Functionaries.”

I have been reading “A Year With Peter Drucker” by Joseph A. Maciariello. The book is subtitled 52 Weeks of Coaching foe Leadership Effectiveness. Week one is entitled: ‘Developing Leaders, Not Functionaries.’ In this chapter the author asks, “are you developing leaders in your organization, or are you developing bureaucratic, rule-following functionaries?” I think it is a great question to ask of leaders, but it is also important for leaders-in-training to assess whether they are being trained to lead, or to simply follow instructions. In the early part of Jesus’ ministry he called men who would be disciples. Peter, Andrew, James and John did not understand what they signed up for when the Master called them. He simply said, “follow Me” and they did. In fact they left everything to follow Jesus.

Applying Peter Drucker’s principle that “leadership is having followers,” Jesus was an exceptional leader. He started with 12, but lost one along the way. He called thousands but at the end of his earthly ministry, He ended up with only 120. On the day of Pentecost however, 3000 were added and His following has been growing ever since. Today, His numbers are so impressive, it’s hard to count, though it may not seem so at times.

Looking at the roster of people whom Jesus called at first, it is hard to imagine the church becoming what it is today. The disciples were  fishermen (some of them) – Matthew was a tax collector – they were simple people. And they started out being “rule following functionaries.” Take the story of the miraculous draught of fishes (Luke 5). After standing in a boat and  teaching the people who had gathered to hear Him, Jesus asked Peter to put out a little into the deep water to catch some fish. Peter, a fisherman all his life, knew a little better. He had fished all night and caught nothing – so he said as much. He added however, “because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (NIV)

Very often when this story is taught, it is from the perspective of obedience – Peter was obedient to Jesus – and quite rightly so. He is after all the One to whom we must be obedient. But let’s engage our minds here a bit (that’s what Encquip is about). In this account, Peter followed an instruction, and if you look at the disciples’ performances in the early days of their calling, that is all they did.  There is no question that good leaders start out by following rules, and doing what is asked of them. But they should never stay there. Peter did not stop at being a rule follower; he eventually became the leader of the early Christian church.

Growth in leadership means moving from being a rule follower to one who sets the rules. According to Drucker, “leadership means getting the right things done.” (p 4). People who simply follow rules get things done but it ends there. Sometimes they are not even aware of why they are doing what they are asked to do!


Step 1: Examine your performance to decide if you are a leader or a rule-follower

Step 2: The next time you are given a task, try to find why you are being asked to do it

Step 3: Look for lessons to be learned in the assigned task

Step 4: Implement the lessons learned


  1. Powerful stuff here, great information. My biggest take away is asking myself, am I a rule follower or developing myself to set some rules. This blog has definitely helped me start changing certain habits and getting the right things done. Implementation of this information has helped big time.

  2. Totally agree with this post. Leaders should first be obedient; follow rules and norms. They should spend time to understand the culture, goals, missions and heart beat of an organization. After which, leaders should be able to ‘see’ things that will strengthen and improve the organization, offer solutions and get involved in implementation.
    An organization with such leaders will be able to expand, be more productive and grow. When visionaries aren’t task masters – growth is inevitable!

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