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

My Mother-In-Law, Pastor Ben, and Desmond Tutu: Joyful Leaders Changing the World

Written by: on October 12, 2023

In 2020, I took a rejuvenating three-month sabbatical. I was expecting profound insights to emerge over the course of this time, but at the end of my sabbatical, all I had were three simple thoughts to carry forward: 1.) Do whatever it takes to get enough sleep. 2.) Do one thing at a time, instead of “multitasking.” 3.) Whatever happens, hold onto joy. At first, I thought these three insights were overly simple and not much to show for a three-month sabbatical, but over time, they have proven to be crucial to my mental, physical, and spiritual health. After reading Warner and Wilder’s books this week, I have a new appreciation for leaders who hold onto their joy. Not only is it important for our personal health, but it can also be the lifeblood that positively influences our families, our communities, and our world.

Warner and Wilder Bring Insights on Leadership

Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder merge their theological and psychological expertise to write two books focused on leadership: Rare Leadership in the Workplace and Rare Leadership. The books have similar theses which revolve around four “uncommon habits” which enable leaders to automatically behave with emotional intelligence.[1] The four habits include: Remain Relational, Act Like Yourself, Return to Joy, and Endure Hardship Well.[2]

All four of these habits are processed in the fast-track of the brain, the part of our brain that operates faster than consciousness.[3] It is here that our sense of identity and emotional competence live.[4] The slow track of our brain, the seat of problem-solving and reasoning, is wired to follow the fast track.[5]  Therefore, according to Warner and Wilder, if we can develop positive habits that emphasize maturity and emotional intelligence, we can grow into leaders that people enjoy following and who establish healthy organizations.[6]

The Value of Joy

I was struck by the value the authors place on joy, that “feeling of well-being in the deepest part of our soul.”[7] They note that joy has not traditionally been valued as a powerful leadership quality in Western culture and argue that “leaders who learn to run on the fuel of joy find a sustainable source of motivation for themselves and others that never runs dry.”[8] Through neurological and Biblical research, the authors deduce that joy is relationship-based, and therefore, leaders who excel in creating connections with the people in their lives will be most effective in developing strong teams and organizations.[9]

As we read in Fukuyama last week, our fractured society needs leaders who can connect people through shared identities.[10] Warner and Wilder believe a necessary component to building a shared identity is joy. Between these three authors, we discover a tangible direction for mending divided families, communities, and nations in which we can all partake at a variety of levels. Who are the joyful leaders that come to mind for me?

Leading with Joy in our Families, Local Communities, and Nations

Family Leaders

Ironically, as I was writing this blog, my husband’s daughter texted me with a picture of her grandma’s gravestone she had just visited. It read, “Geraldine Hale, May 1, 1924 – Sept. 22, 2013, Her joy was her family.” I never got to meet my husband’s mother, but he talks of the ways in which she maintained joy through the highlights and challenges of her life and in so doing, brought stability and love to her family. We can never overestimate the long-lasting influence of a joyful parent on their children and future grandchildren. Even I, who never met Geri Hale, am touched by her joy through her family and the ways they have embodied her relational strength.

Community Leaders

When I think of joyful local community leaders, I think of Pastor Ben, head of staff at our church several years ago. Ben, through his brilliant and healthy relational skills, managed authentic and sober conversations addressing our congregational brokenness at the time and yet, maintained joy and a sense of humor. He connected with people of all ages, laughed easily, showed care through his actions, and loved practical jokes. My kids still talk of the notes Ben would leave on Sunday mornings for the youth sitting in the balcony. The notes read: “Donuts in the Tower Room. Enjoy.” Ben sustained us with his joy and prepared us for our next season of mature growth.

National Leaders

When I think of joyful national leaders, I think of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu, despite the tragedies he experienced, maintained an attitude of joy which pervaded his relationships. His joy came from his faith in God and his understanding of the value and connectedness of all humans, as expressed through the African concept of “ubuntu.” He noted, “When you have ubuntu, then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. …We belong in a bundle of life.”[11]  Tutu’s joy has impacted the world.



Warner and Wilder provide us with strong habits to cultivate emotional maturity and strong leadership. As for me, their emphasis on joy will be my takeaway. Thank you to the many people in our midst who have provided strong models of joy, people like my mother-in-law, Pastor Ben, and Desmond Tutu, for through them we find the keys to building healthier families, communities, and a more positive world.



[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), 25.

[2] Ibid, 25-26.

[3] Ibid, 26.

[4] Ibid, 28.

[5] Ibid, 29.

[6] Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership in the Workplace: 4 Uncommon Habits that Improve Focus, Engagement, and Productivity (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 2021), 24.

[7] Ibid, 31; and Warner and Wilder, Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead, 24.

[8] Ibid, 192 and 208, see footnote re the influence of the Enlightenment which values information over emotions; and Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership in the Workplace: 4 Uncommon Habits that Improve Focus, Engagement, and Productivity, 30.

[9] Warner and Wilder, Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead, 24.

[10] Francis Fukuyama, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2018), 183.

[11] Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1999), 31.

About the Author

Jenny Steinbrenner Hale

11 responses to “My Mother-In-Law, Pastor Ben, and Desmond Tutu: Joyful Leaders Changing the World”

  1. Caleb Lu says:

    Love the simple note that still comes to mind when you think of your pastor: “donuts in the tower room, enjoy”. It reminds me of your last post, which I deeply appreciated. There are so many small, seemingly mundane things we have the opportunity to routinely say that can resonate so much deeper and further than that moment.

    Praying that joy would continue to grow and run deeply in your family

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Thanks, Caleb, for your response. Yes, so true! Some of the simple things we say and do are remembered long beyond the moment. Appreciate your wishes for joy! May the same be true for your family.

  2. Tonette Kellett says:


    Love the way you write, and how you incorporate your family and values. You weave that in so nicely. Your focus this time on joy is wonderful… and the second R in RARE Leadership. Excellent work as always.

  3. mm Chad McSwain says:

    I am drawn to the power joy has to create shared identity. Desmond Tutu is certainly a leader that embodied that. It is a great reminder of the very simple, yet profound truth you discovered in your sabbatical. How have these axioms shaped your leadership?

    Interestingly, I have focused on my sleep the past few weeks. I basically go to bed and get up at the same time each day, and it’s an hour before everyone else goes to bed and wakes up – not always easy. Do you consider sleep one of your key-stone habits?

  4. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Hi Chad, Thanks for your thoughts! That’s a good question regarding how these axioms have shaped my leadership. I think they have helped me to be more people-oriented, maintain a healthy perspective on what’s really important, and slow down so that I can think more clearly and deliberately. They still seem super simplistic to me and I’m sometimes a bit embarrassed to share them as my “take away pieces of wisdom” from my sabbatical, but they really work for me and keep me in a calm headspace, versus a fearful and worry-filled state. 🙂

    I do think of sleep as one of my key-stone habits! I agree, it’s so hard to get to bed early, but when I’m able to do that and then get up early, I love it! The quiet, early mornings are my favorite part of the day.
    How is your focus on sleep going? Are you seeing any positives yet?

  5. Kristy Newport says:

    I appreciate your sharing the take aways from your sabatical. They are very practical and easy to apply. i think I could benefit from not multi tasking and taking one thing one-giving singular focus.
    I love this simple example of how your pastor impacted your children: “My kids still talk of the notes Ben would leave on Sunday mornings for the youth sitting in the balcony. The notes read: “Donuts in the Tower Room. Enjoy.” It truly is in the small things-little messages which have been communicated.
    I also appreciated hearing about your mother in law. What a profound legacy she has. You honor her well in sharing about her.
    I pray that the Lord continues to provide joy as you seek Him. I have appreciated how you have taken a different outlook on your job while being in the DLGP. How have you recently experienced joy in your role?

    • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

      Hi Kristy, Thanks for your comments and encouragement. I think one way I have experienced joy in my job recently is that while I’ve been sick over the last couple weeks, my team has totally stepped up and kept the work rolling along. I’m grateful for such talent and depth on our team.

      Hope you have a good week!

  6. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    There is great value in finding Joy. God has gifted us with joy as an alternative to fear, discourage and sorrow on top of many other things. Do you believe that we should use the word finding it or realizing that we already have it? Great post.

  7. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Ooh, that’s a good question and thought-provoking. I would say we can use God’s word in finding a place of new joy, but also, God’s presence brings joy that we can experience if we are aware. And, maybe God has also given us joy, within ourselves, and we not to stop and remember? What do you think? I like that question.

  8. Alana Hayes says:

    When I think of a RARE leader I think of you!

    Who do you have in your family that is a RARE leader like you!?

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