Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead

By Marcus Warner & Jim Wilder
Chicago, IL: Moody Publications (2016)
Hardcover, 204 pages; Kindle edition


Doctors Jim Wilder and Marcus Warner have dedicated their lives to leadership. They conclude that a strong leader has “emotional intelligence,” or EQ. Their thesis is that “there are four uncommon habits developed by high-capacity leaders that distinguish them from ‘common leaders’ whose attention is diverted by problem-solving and driving toward results. These four habits all relate to the fast-track system of the brain” (loc. 25). Wilder and Marcus focus on leaders developing one’s fast-track system that will produce a fruit of four uncommon habits that are related to emotional intelligence. One knows if they are using their fast-track system and becoming a stronger or more effective leader if there is a “dramatic increase in trust, joy, and engagement in the people you lead” (loc. 13).

The authors dive into brain science to discover that “leadership skills are learned in a different way and in a different area of the brain than management skills and academic studies” (loc. 19). Many leadership programs are focusing on managerial types of models but the church is filled with people and in need of leaders with exceptional interpersonal skills. To develop what the authors call a RARE leader, the right side of the brain, or fast-track, needs to be developed to the point where it takes over when not even thinking about it. The slow-track system is optimized for management, monitors results and provides explanations to the problems we face while the fast-track system is relational.

Wilder and Warner claim that by developing the fast-track system one will become a RARE leader, and the RARE leader will:

  • Remain relational.
  • Act like yourself.
  • Return to joy.
  • Endure hardship well.

The benefits of becoming this type of a leader are beneficial not only for you as a leader but to the ones being led. How does becoming a RARE leader benefit everyone involved? Joy is the driving force behind this RARE model. “Joy is a renewable energy source that the brain is wired to prefer” (loc. 64). The Bible speaks about how Jesus came so that our joy may be full, and in Psalm 16:11 it says that joy is found in the face of God. Joy is a motivator in the Bible and a RARE leader will be driven by the same motivation, “Our deepest need and most desperate craving is joyful relationships. People will do crazy things in the pursuit of joyful relationships” (loc. 66).

The authors don’t believe in accountability groups because they say they are based out of fear. If I don’t make it on my end then I will be looked down on, the boss will be upset, or I could lose my job or position. Instead, Wilder and Warner make a case for identity groups, where people are free to be vulnerable and open. It’s a group of allies; the group is tender towards weakness; they are committed to seeking God and can be anywhere in the world. Here relationships are built and people are uplifted and encouraged if they “fail” and don’t hold up to their part, and a RARE leader facilitates this kind of a group rather than a pressure, fear-based accountability group where the focus is on results which are all that matters. “RARE leaders understand that results matter, but they don’t fix their sights on results. Fast-track leaders don’t push their organizations or their ministries toward a results target. RARE leaders aim at their group identity” (loc. 100).

Every strong leader aims to live as a RARE leader and to equip others to live and teach the four habits of a RARE leader. A RARE leader remains relational, doesn’t focus on the problem and puts aside relationships but keeps their relationships bigger than their problems. A RARE leader acts like him or herself, has a consistency of character and whatever emotions they may face and still know how to act like themselves. Also “they are really good at seeing Jesus in others and waking up that part of the person’s heart” (loc. 142). A RARE leader returns to joy, can experience upsetting emotions but recovers quickly and helps others recover and return to joy from a variety of negative emotions. A RARE leader endures hardship well, suffering well as Jesus did since “Jesus is the ultimate model of maturity in the face of suffering” (loc. 175).

I recommend this book to all who desire to be stronger leaders, to look not only at results as a sign of a good leader but to relationships and emotional maturity. “When it comes to leadership, it turns out that emotional maturity may just be the most important assessment we can make” (loc 194). If you desire to remain relational, act like yourself, return to joy, and endure hardships well, then you might want to read this book.

Robert Meneses is a MAPM student (Master in Pastoral Ministry) and a pastor in Alabama of the Gulf States Conference.

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