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

The Formula for Being a Good Leader

Written by: on November 1, 2023

Even though I know better, I keep reading these leadership books in hopes of finding some magic formula for being a great leader. Maybe there is a step by step process, a check list of some sort, that will not only get me to the head of the (conference) table but will also keep me there because of the magnificent leadership skills I have learned and honed through reading these books.

Like I said, I know better. I know there is no magic formula, no step-by-step process, nor checklist for leadership. The closest thing I have found to a magic formula in the books we’ve read for class has been to deeply know who you are and Whose you are.

Friedman talks about self-differentiation,[1] Walker says we should be undefended,[2] Poole stresses the need for character because, as she writes in her book, Leadersmithing, “it is the very thing that will save you when everything else is stripped away.”[3]

In his book, The Sound of Leadership, Kingdom Notes to Fine Tune Your Life and Influence, Jules Glanzer likens leadership to an acoustical art, a sound experience, the ability to “hear and discern the many voices while at the same time calling other voices into a harmonious sound of imagining and creating the future, all the while developing one’s own soundtrack and listening for the voice of God.”[4] In chapter seven Glanzer gives us the key to doing this well when he writes, “Leadership is being that results in doing. Who you are determines how you lead. How you lead flows from who you are.”[5] While in this chapter he was referring to how our unique personalities, strengths, values, sovereign foundations, events, personal bests, and broken world experiences in life have shaped us into the persons we are today and how who we are is expressed with a set of behavioral tendencies, a leadership personality, and a certain style, in the end, “a leader’s voice, tone, and mood are an expression of his or her inner being.”[6] And I think it is the “inner-being” that Glanzer finds most important for leadership.

He continues in this chapter to list characteristics such as integrity, courage, humility stating that they “demonstrate the basic form for leadership character.” I would argue that these characteristics are also a foundational piece of being self-differentiated and of knowing who you are and Whose you are.

Throughout the book Glanzer ends each chapter with a “Kingdom Takeaway” asking the reader questions to consider about how their leadership might best participate in God’s kingdom. Most, if not all, of the questions lead the reader to also consider how she might know herself and God more fully, again, leading the reader to a deeper knowing of who she is and Whose she is.


A few critiques of and encouragement to Glanzer

There were several comments made by Glanzer in his book that left me squirming as I think I understood where he was coming from but wanted to challenge him to consider another perspective. One of those comments was made in chapter two when he discussed how during the racial unrest and the COVID pandemic he released a statement on behalf of the college where he served as president. In this statement he claimed the college’s commitment to value all people. Glanzer writes about listening to all voices, to hearing the sounds they make. I wonder if he might have listened more closely to the voices of people of color who rightfully and genuinely are still hurt by the actions of those with white skin. I wonder if those of us with white skin need to listen to the voices of people of color for at least as long as they have been listening to ours before we start making comments that disregard their voices, such as “all are welcome.” “All are welcome” seems innocent, but it is like saying “All lives matter.” Of course all lives matter, but in keeping with the music analogy, white people have had the solo for too long and now it is time to let people of color sing their song.

The other comment he made was in lifting up the quote from Sam Walton, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”[7] While the quote itself is fine, it’s using Sam Walton as an example that gives me pause. Sam Walton was best known for founding Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Wal-Mart grew to be the world’s largest corporation by revenue as well as the biggest private employer in the world.[8] For a time, Walton was the richest person in the United States. All of this might point to him being a great leader, yet, his most of his employees do not make a living wage.[9] Not only this but critiques have been made of Wal-Mart for contributing to sexism, and fundamentalist Christianity in which women are subordinate to men.[10] I say all this, not to get into a conversation about Sam Walton but as a critique of Glanzer using Walton as an example of a kingdom leader.

[1] Edwin Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Church Publishing Incorporated, 2017, 16.

[2] Simon P. Walker, Leading Out Of Who You Are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership. .

[3] Eve Poole, Leadersmithing, Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership (London ; New York, NY: Bloomsbury Business, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2017), 55.

[4] Jules Glazner, The Sound of Leadership, Invite Press (2023), page 29 (Scribd)

[5] Ibid, 101.

[6] Ibid, 98.

[7] Ibid, 110.

[8] Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Walton

[9] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/walmart-minimum-wage-20-an-hour-still-broke-rick-wartzman-author/

[10] https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/11/god-and-walmart/

About the Author

Kally Elliott

Mom of four. Wanna-be Broadway star. PC(USA) pastor. Wife. Friend. Sometimes a hot mess. Sometimes somewhat together. Is this supposed to be a professional bio?

7 responses to “The Formula for Being a Good Leader”

  1. mm Kim Sanford says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful post, Kally. You tied Glanzer’s mention of characteristics such as integrity, courage, humility to self–differentiation, a concept that many of us are still talking about and have mentioned as foundational to our leadership. I’m curious what your experience of self-differentiation has been since we learned about it last year. How have you put it in place in your leadership and what difference has it made for you?

    • Kally Elliott says:

      I have been *trying* to catch myself when I start feeling critical. I try to ask myself if perhaps I might be feeling anxious about a situation. Once I can discern anxiety I can redirect myself. Just becoming aware of my anxiety has helped me to be more positive and see others as doing the best they can with the resources they have. I’m much more likely to come alongside when I am self-differentiated than when I am a ball of anxiety!

  2. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Kally,
    Great post, and great critiques.

    “Leadership is being that results in doing. Who you are determines how you lead. How you lead flows from who you are.”

    Yikes…”who am I?” My layer of experiences in the military, as a missionary, husband, father…student, what more?

    This summer has been a leadership “epic fail” for me in Hungary. I am still covering from the leadership blunt trauma of being called toxic. What did I do wrong?

    Jenny Dooley (my peer group) listened to the context and she said, “perhaps you were being human.” Wow, I needed to hear that. We are human leaders, with all the cracks and stinky bits the litter our lives. And yet, we also create change.

    I am reminded in Genesis of the first creation sounds. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

    Ah the sound of the Creator, creating.


    • Kally Elliott says:

      Russel, I have a hard time ever thinking of you as “toxic!” You are one of the most humble, kind people I know. Like Jenny said, perhaps you were just being human. So glad she could lift you up with that truth.

      We all have epic leadership failures but without them we wouldn’t get better at this leadership thing we’ve been called to. I trust you will learn, grow, and be an even more compassionate leader in the days to come.

  3. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    Hi Kally!

    I like your writing. It is so objective. You put your appreciation and critique into it. It helps me to broaden my perspective.

    You criticize Glanzer because he mentions Walton as one of his examples. How do you see it? Do you think what Glanzer did was represent that he heard God’s voice? Thanks.

  4. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


    I agree with Dinka. I appreciate your writing and your objective perspective. I have felt similar about the different opinions on how we should lead. But I really liked this book.

    This statement that you made really struck me. You say, “The closest thing I have found to a magic formula in the books we’ve read for class has been to deeply know who you are and Whose you are.”
    YES… know who you are and whose you are. I tell my kids this every time they leave the house without me, and I so appreciate the reminder to lead with this in mind. YOU ROCK!

  5. Adam Harris says:

    Appreciate the honest response Kally, what you pointed out about Sam Walton, and others like him, hits on how Christians leaders may view “success” in the kingdom of God through the lens of capitalism, the market, profit, and hard work. Hard to unsee those ideas now huh.

Leave a Reply