Leader: Are you an analyst or a catalyst?

By Sam S. Rainer III

Good leaders are both analysts and catalysts. Leaders must accurately describe reality. Leaders must create for a better future. An analyst has a proper understanding of present reality. A catalyst knows what to create for a better future. The analyst helps followers understand the present. The catalyst inspires followers to move towards the future.

Blog-376_New-CokeAll effective leaders are both analysts and catalysts to a degree, but most tend to lean one way or the other. The analyst is more prophet, warning about the status quo. The catalyst is more inventor, designing something novel.

If your default setting is an analyst, then you will tend to spend more time assessing current reality. However, there is a downside to assessing without creating: analysis paralysis. No leader can gain enough knowledge to act with 100% certainty. Overanalyzing is one of the most prevalent reasons why leaders do not move forward.

If your default setting is a catalyst, then you will tend to spend more time creating rather than analyzing. However, there is a downside to creating without assessing. You end up with something like New Coke — a novelty no one wants. Over-creating wears out followers. It doesn’t take long for people to figure out the leader is simply guessing at what will stick in the future.

How can you balance both? What do leaders look like who are both catalysts and analysts?

You navigate at the right pace. The analyst sees the danger. The catalyst is willing to push forward. A leader who balances both will know how to navigate the dangerous waters of change. In the established church, one of the keys to maintaining this balance is pace. The best church leaders know how quickly they can navigate through change.

You inspire without one-upmanship. The catalyst inspires. However, inspiration detached from reality is simply a game of one-upmanship. Some church leaders get caught in the whirlpool of one-upmanship. Your church is always superior. Every Sunday is bigger than the last. Every event is better than the previous ones. Every sentence of communication has multiple exclamation points. Spiraling around feels like you’re going somewhere fast, until you realize you’re going down.

You help people solve their own problems. The analyst tells people what is wrong with the status quo. The catalyst motivates people to do something about it. A balanced church leader will equip followers to solve their own problems.

You create with a purpose. Creativity without function looks great on the wall of an art museum. There is a time and place to inspire through creativity alone. However, creativity alone is not leadership. Leadership requires creativity to be paired with purpose. A balanced church leader is both a creative catalyst and purposeful analyst.

Leading as a catalyst is exciting. These types of leaders motivate and inspire. Leading as an analyst is informing. These types of leaders help followers understand. Your church needs you to lead as both. Equipping the saints requires the creativity of a catalyst and the understanding of an analyst.


Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research, a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog.


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