Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I’m RARELY This Disappointed in a Book!

Written by: on February 21, 2024

“To lead well, we need a new paradigm. That is precisely what we will be presenting…” (1).

So begins a rather haphazard book that reads one-third leadership training, one-third Pastoring-in-1990-Evangelicalism and one-third sales-pitch for their ‘new’ leadership paradigm that may have been newish back in 2016, but certainly not unique. Rare Leadership in the Workplace (2) did nothing to increase my rather dismal experience of reading Warner and Wilder’s first offering, Rare Leadership.

Perhaps I am being overly critical with this book because I had high hopes for it. This is an area of passion and interest for me, and it was initially the primary focus of my NPO (which has since shifted/broadened). Even with the shift in my NOP, I remain convinced that most of the issues taking Pastors out of leadership in my Denomination and country are related to psychological and relational unhealth and not poor orthodoxy. This book addresses the kind of leadership training we must include in our Pastoral leadership training; I just feel like there are many other books that would be better to choose from—we’ve even read some of them:

• Simon Walker’s Leading Out of Who You Are (3) addresses the issue of wearing masks and not ‘acting like yourself’ (chapter 5 of Rare Leadership).

• Freidman’s Failure of Nerve (4) addresses the sort of healthy self-differentiation that is necessary to be ‘adult and parent-level maturity’ (chapter 10 of Rare Leadership).

• Camacho’s Mining for Gold (5) speaks about the importance of leaders having a healthy identity in Christ which results in a healthy sense of self (Rare Leadership chapter 6).

• The importance of Emotional Intelligence (chapter 2 of Rare Leadership) is, in my view much better articulated (a year earlier!) by Scazzaro in Emotionally Healthy Leaders (6) and there are scores of other psychological books that are helping us understand trauma-informed leadership in readable and insightful ways (to be fair, this has been a more recent trend over the past 3-5 years).

All that to say, I was disappointed in this book—particularly how the authors spoke (in my view) quite simplistically, giving such neat and tidy illustrations that it almost seemed ‘corny’ to me. I also experienced them being simplistic as it relates to the ‘categories or boxes’ they put people into (One such example: Protectors, Possums, and Predators (7)), like we don’t slide back and forth from health to unhealth (depending on the day, the issue, the circumstances, etc.) in the messy journey of growing up in Christ. It just all landed as a packaged ‘one-size-fits-all’ package of linear growth for leaders.

Perhaps I have issues?

The one particular area of interest for me was the author’s assertion that we can train the ‘fast track’ thinking of our brain (8). I was curious about this because I had, whether rightly or wrongly, understood Kahneman’s book (9) to suggest that we need to learn how to pull the right-side thinking over to the left-side of our brain to properly self-manage/regulate (Am I misrepresenting Kahneman here?). Therefore, the possibility of training the right-side to better or more congruently respond to circumstances seemed like a really great thing to pursue!

How do we go about training the fast-thinking side of our brains? Chapter six answers the question:

• Attend THRIVE (Their week-long conference)
• Seek God & build intimacy with Him (Quiet, Scripture, Appreciation, Writing, Sharing)
• Build relationship with people that affirm your true identity
• Imitation exercise (I’m still unclear what this really means)

I read chapter six twice, and I still don’t really know how to train my fast-thinking brain and two out of the four suggestions in the chapter are certainly not a new paradigm!

Ok…I do have issues. Enough ranting.

Here’s the irony: I appreciate and agree with some of the meta-points of their book—for example, as mentioned above, the importance of emotional intelligence for Christian leaders.

A second area of agreement is the notion of identity (chapter 8: Act Like Yourself). As a church, we are currently working our way through the book of Ephesians, and at the start of chapter four Paul says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (10).

Many of us hear the words, “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” and we immediately translate that into something like, “In light of all that God has done for you, pull up your bootstraps, smarten up, and start living a life that proves you were worthy of being called so that God doesn’t feel like He wasted one of his picks on you.”

If you were raised in the Evangelical church, this is quite possibly the most natural interpretation to the verse: measure up, prove yourself, pass the test. But that is not what Paul is meaning to communicate. The Greek word is more like ‘balance things out’ or ‘find the right fit’ and it speaks to this notion of living into who you already are in Christ (identity).

In Ephesians chapters 1 to 3 Paul says, “This is who God is; this is what God has done for us through Jesus; so now this is who you are.” Therefore, live out your new identity in Christ. Another way to say it: live into the new spiritually alive and Spirt-empowered person you now are. This verse isn’t some furrowed brow call to shape up or ship out, it’s this joy-filled call for us to be who God has created and redeemed us to be.

Warner and Wilder are certainly right in this respect: If we can truly appreciate who we are because of whose we are, our journey of transformation—both the fast and slow thinking parts—becomes more joyfully integrated into the life of discipleship that we are all called into.

(1) Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016), 42.
(2) Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership in the Workplace: 4 Uncommon Habits That Improve Focus, Engagement, and Productivity (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 2021).
(3) Simon P. Walker, Leading Out of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership (Piquant Editions, 2007).
(4) Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (Church Publishing Incorporated, 2017).
(5) Tom Camacho, Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders through Coaching (Nottingham: IVP, 2019).
(6) Peter Scazzaro, The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).
(7) Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016), 145.
(8) Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016), 108.
(9) Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (London: Penguin Books, 2012).
(10) Ephesians 4.1

About the Author

Scott Dickie

5 responses to “I’m RARELY This Disappointed in a Book!”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Scott,
    Yes you have ISSUES. But don’t we all? I also presume that at least one of our ISSUES is our NPO. What is yours by the way?

    Jenny Dooley also spoke to training the Fast 1 thinking. In my realm of experience FAST 1 thinking can cut both ways. For instance, we train our US officers/soldiers to Lead, Follow or get out of the way. Rather heuristic, huh?

    But over a series of events/experiences, our reactions (which are certainly fluid on the battle field), are tempered by the long term strategic efforts that are needed to guarantee success (System 2 thinking) over time. Winning the battle and the war.

    I hover somewhere in the Third Space (I am using the term totally differently here) that emerges when
    the spheres of fast 1 and slow 2 thinking overlap.

    The sweet spot of leadership? I wonder.


  2. Scott Dickie says:

    Hi Russell…thanks for your thoughts. With your experience of fast thinking training in the armed services, do you feel like the authors gave sufficient tracks or guidance or exercises in this book for us to re-train our fast thinking side? That was my primary critique of the content….but I might be missing something.

    I’d be interested to hear more about how you see our fast and slow sides overlapping….and what that looks like as the sweet spot of leadership…

  3. (One such example: Protectors, Possums, and Predators, like we don’t slide back and forth from health to unhealth (depending on the day, the issue, the circumstances, etc.) in the messy journey of growing up in Christ. It just all landed as a packaged ‘one-size-fits-all’ package of linear growth for leaders.
    First of all, Scott, your critical thinking is superb. I so wish I had that gift, that perceptiveness. I have to work so doggone hard at it. You and Kally are definitely a gift to this cohort!

    I really like what you said about us sliding back and forth from health to unhealthy at times. I have never given thought to that and I agree with you man because life can be challenging each and every week. You definitely gave me something to think about as I continue to process your post! Thanks, man!

  4. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    I always admire and respect those who can easily critique what they are reading. I think I come from a too agreeable space, unless it completely offends my sensibilities, I have had critiques on some of our books. Scott, thank you for not just critiquing the book but being very clear on why you disagree! I want to emulate you! It was helpful for me to read your blog:)

  5. mm Pam Lau says:

    As I read your post, I thought how most authors do a very good job of creating ideas, expectations and new thoughts that fit nicely together in book form. When we as the audience read it, it feels as if they have created a perfect world in which their ideas fit nicely. And what they say is good–even brilliant. We know we live in a fallen world where even on the best of days, applying another’s wisdom is helpful but never perfect. Have you ever read a book on leadership that combines wisdom with stark reality? Would we even want to read it??

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