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

Leadership Maturity

Written by: on October 13, 2023

“A clergy person is more like a parent or step-parent”[1]. This was the moment I leaned in to the words of Martin Percy. Not that he lacked my attention before, but I had never heard these words applied in such a matter-of-fact way. I had said them in moments of frustration, yet now these were words that framed my own leadership experience.

RARE Leadership 

This is the same experience I had reading Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy and Engagement in the People You Lead. The authors, Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, argue that leadership is fundamentally relational, which means the leader leads more out of who they are than what they do[2]. Using the latest research in cognitive science, Warner and Wilder unpack the habits of relational leaders that they explain using the acronym RARE[3]. 

RARE Leaders

The fundamental problem that Warner and Wilder want to address is that “Many leaders, business people, pastors, team leaders, and influencers never receive any training in leadership”[4]. This poignant observation leads them to describe much of the leadership that is on display as “sandbox leadership” that is characterized by “…a lack of emotional maturity [that] creates catastrophic consequences for their unsuspecting followers”[5]. 

Warner and Wilder argue that the solution is not more information and better choices, which has been the historical and contemporary approach to leadership and formation[6]. Instead, a new approach is needed that gets into the “fast track” aspect of the brain, which the authors argue, is to change a person’s identity[7]. The solution is essentially to create new a new identity through habits (RARE) that reprogram the brain to behave in healthy ways that result in positive and effective leadership[8]. These RARE habits are remain relational, act like yourself, return to joy, and endure hardships well[9]. Interestingly, James Clear offered a similar argument in his seminal work, Atomic Habits. Clear argues that the way to make different choices is to assume the identity of the person you want to be and the habits will follow[10].  

Age of Maturity

What I found fascinating about Warner and Wilder’s assessment, especially given Martyn Percy’s observation, is the ability to endure hardship based on a person’s emotional maturity. Warner and Wilder argue that people have emotional ages that do not correspond to their biological age. These emotional ages are Infant Maturity, Child-Level Maturity, Adult-Level Maturity, Parent-Level Maturity and Elder-Level Maturity[11]. It is no wonder I felt like a parent to members of my congregation, even those who are decades older than I am. This also explains the times I have displayed less-than compelling leadership. It is all about emotional maturity. As Warner and Wilder put it, “Most of our churches are not lacking for talented or gifted people. Yet they are starving for leaders with the maturity to love well”[12]. 


Leading is rational and it takes emotional maturity to lead well. This is the resounding thought that I carry away from Rare Leadership. It is a reminder that we are all in a web of relationships, so it should not suppose us when we feel like a parent or step-parent. We may also find ourselves as the child who needs to develop and mature to the level of competency that is needed for a particular organizational-family. This is a book that more leaders need to read and re-read. I know I will. 

‌1. Martyn Percy, Doctor of Leadership and Global Perspectives Saturday AM Lectures. Oxford, United Kingdom, September 24, 2023. 

2.Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership : 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2016), 22. 

3. Ibid., 46. 

4. Ibid., 20. 

5. Ibid., 41-42. 

6. Ibid., 44. 

7. Ibid., 46. 

8. Ibid. 

9. Ibid., 25-26, 46. 

10. James Clear, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (New York, New York: Avery, An Imprint Of Penguin Random House, 2018), 33. 

11. Warner and Wilder, 179-183. 

12. Ibid., 182. 

About the Author


Chad McSwain

Chad is a systematic creative serving in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years, Chad is a professional question-asker and white-board enthusiast, who enjoys helping people discover their own passions and purpose. A life-long learner, he has a B.A, Philosophy - Univ. Central Oklahoma, M.A Theology - Fuller Seminary, M.Div. Perkins School of Theology at SMU and is pursuing a Doctor of Leadership - George Fox University. He is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, currently serving as Lead Pastor of Whitesboro UMC. Chad and his wife, Brandi live in Prosper, Texas along with their three children, two pugs and a chameleon.

7 responses to “Leadership Maturity”

  1. Chad,
    I appreciated your post, thank you. I will say I have noticed great maturity, confidence, and strength in you since I have gotten the priviledge of meeting you.

    I think this is my favorite post you have done, it is simple, clear, direct, personal and powerful. Thank you for blessing us with your knowledge, experience, and skills.

  2. mm Becca Hald says:

    Great post Chad. “It is no wonder I felt like a parent to members of my congregation, even those who are decades older than I am.” I can so relate to this at times. It is not always easy being the more mature one in a relationship. I wonder how we can use the principles of this book to help those in our care continue to mature, rather than remaining emotionally immature.

  3. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Chad,

    This was a very clear synopsis of RARE Leadership. Great work. In reading this post, you helped me connect leadership with Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” as well as Friedman’s “Failure of Nerve.” In regards to Friedman, he talks about how we are “data-junkies” and assume we need “more information” in order to lead better. Rather, he advocates for simply making decisions based on the information we have. In regards to Kahneman’s work, it is critical for us leaders to develop the identity, emotional maturity, and habits in order to make “RARE” leadership our “fast-thinking” response system.

    So, for your leadership context, what are the action steps for you in order to be less of a parent to the congregation? Or is that the goal?

  4. Tonette Kellett says:


    Excellent post on RARE Leadership. I like how you tied the book to Martyn Percy’s quote about being a parent or step-parent to your congregation… Or at times, the child. I agree, it’s an excellent book. Great job, as always!

  5. Kristy Newport says:

    Great blog Chad!
    I appreciate your humble note at the end:
    “We may also find ourselves as the child who needs to develop and mature to the level of competency that is needed for a particular organizational-family”

    This isn’t easy- to recognize the areas where we are needing to grow in maturity. Have there been people or circumstances that have done this for you?
    I know that I am grappling with a need to forgive and without doing this-I will remain stuck and immature.

    Thanks for thoughtful post

  6. Michael O'Neill says:

    Home run, Chad. This was a great breakdown of the books, RARE Leadership, and a smooth connection to our other readings and speakers. My wife and I often joke that we’re the parents of our staff and it feels even more that way around Christmas and the holidays or even when we have an unfortunate situation and need to discipline or let go of an employee. Not that we let go of our kids… but I’m sure you’ve felt that emotional tug when you’ve said goodbye to someone leaving your organization or congregation. It hurts but often it is for the best.

    I know you went through that recently. Do you feel like you or your staff are more mature and have gained strength and wisdom from that experience when some of your congregation was unwilling to compromise on things?

  7. Hi Chad,
    Love your insights;
    “Leading is rational and it takes emotional maturity to lead well”.
    Would you suggest when emotional maturity is reached? Maybe a certain age or another way to measure it!

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