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

What’s Relationships Got To Do With It?

Written by: on February 8, 2023

A quick Amazon search for “leadership books” will yield over 50,000 results, so either the market is desperate for more leadership wisdom that many people struggle to lead or something else altogether. I am glad I chose to write a book for clergy and congregational leaders for my doctoral project…

Don’t fact-check me on this, but at least half of the leadership books I’ve read have been written by a successful leader, trying to recapture in words what made them successful. By far, the worst leadership books are written by megachurch pastors that need to remind everyone what they don’t already see from their multisite campuses, that they have reached the pinnacle of leadership. A close friend of mine that teaches public policy at a major university’s school of business has said that 95% of the books written on leadership are trash.

However, sprinkled in the leadership section of the library are the folks who examine leadership across many sectors from analytical, psychological, and sociological standpoints, such as genuine organizational psychologists. For example, Rare Leadership, penned by Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, attempts to examine leadership from a theological, cognitive, and emotional perspective. Warner is a former academic and the president of Deeper Walk International, a nonprofit dedicated to the discipleship and counseling of Christians. Wilder is a clinical psychologist experience and the chief neurotheologian of Life Model Works, a nonprofit working at the intersection of theology and brain science.

The coauthors take the time to lay out the importance of understanding one’s identity and emotional register as a leader, considering if most people are attuned to these things. Tom Camacho related to this idea when he stated that knowing our true identity as a child of God is a critical understanding for thriving. [1] The hope for readers is that they will cultivate emotional maturity in themselves and those around them. “Lasting transformation takes place when a person’s identity changes and that person becomes comfortable in living out their new identity,” argued Wilder and Warner. [2]

Wilder and Warner take this concept deeper by helping the readers understand what causes some of our relationally disastrous responses to a crisis, difficult employees, and bad choices. They call it the “Slow-track System” and the “Fast-track System.” They noted that The Fast-track System maintains identity, supplies motivation, and controls emotions. In contrast, the Slow-track System maintains strategy, solves problems, and plans long term. [3] This is the same school of thought that Daniel Kahneman and Pragya Agarwal labeled “System 1” and “System 2,” namely that our brains have two primary response mechanisms, unconscious reasoning, and a rational system.

As they urged, “RARE leaders use difficulties as opportunities to focus on improving relational skills before improving task management. When the leadership and management systems are running well, they work well together. Leaders with poorly developed master system will find themselves operating almost exclusively out of their brain’s slow-track system.”[4]

However, for Wilder and Warner, leadership comes down to relationships and how we respond outwardly and inwardly to the people within our organization. They give the acronym R.A.R.E to convey their argument: (R) Remain relational; (A) Act like yourself; (R) Return to joy; (E) Endure hardship well. [5] They weave throughout each of these uncommon habits the cognitive, psychological, and sociological mechanisms that either embrace or resist the capacity for trust, joy, and engagement.

If we were to examine most organizations’ schools of thought around relationships, it might boil down to a Human Resource department or casual Fridays. Do most leaders invest quality and intentional time with the people they work for the end game of cultivating authentic relationships? Warner and Wilder argue that too often, organizations are run based on fear, preventing strong relationship bonds. [6]

Obviously, this form of relational investment requires a cultural change within many organizations, beginning at the top with leadership. Maybe the best place to begin to humanize individuals and empathize with them as they experience frustration, setback, and loss. Warner and Wilder raised the issue of enduring hardship well. Not only should the leader accept that these things are a part of life and work, but to strive to journey alongside others as they experience it. “RARE leader can walk with team member [e.g., children, students, colleagues, teachers] in their suffering,” they urged. [7]

Rare Leadership is a fascinating peek at organizational dynamics from cognitive, emotional intelligence, and theological perspectives. It certainly gives Christian readers a glimpse beyond the typical tropes of merging cherrypicked Scriptures and catchy phrases on leadership to see their God-given impulses and capacity for healthier relationships within their church or nonprofit. As the authors hoped, “The best coaches, teachers, managers, and leaders are the ones who instill a clear sense of identity into their group and help people understand, ‘This is who we are, and this is how it is like us to act.”[8]

[1] Tom Camacho, Mining for Gold: Developing Kingdom Leaders Through Coaching (Nottingham: Intervarsity Press, 2019), 12-13. 

[2] Warner, Marcus, and E. James Wilder, Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2016), 46.  

[3] Ibid., 25. 

[4] Ibid., 27. 

[5] Ibid., 13.   

[6] Ibid., 117. 

[7] Ibid., 16. 

[8] Ibid. 46. 

About the Author


Andy Hale

Associate Executive Coordinator of CBF North Carolina, CBF Podcast Creator and Host, & Professional Coach

6 responses to “What’s Relationships Got To Do With It?”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Andy, I really enjoyed reading this post. I appreciate your emphasis on relationships as I believe that’s the huge “win” of the book this week. A couple of questions for you: 1) You wrote about the comment that 95% of leadership books are trash – what 2 or 3 leadership books would you put into the 5% category that is not trash? 2) In your new role, what are you seeing in the NC churches when it comes to relationships as it should be in the church?

  2. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Mr. Hale: All these books on leadership make me want to start my own 501 C(3) organization where I am the only employee. No boss, no subordinates; just me doing the work by myself. No customers or clients would be fine by me too. Just leave me alone and let me live my life. Maybe I’ll go into writing full time. Stephen King doesn’t have to worry about employees, company moral, delegation, organizational charts, etc…I’m only half kidding. Nice post.

  3. Elmarie Parker says:

    Hi Andy…thank you for your post. I appreciated your links back to Camacho. I’m curious about two things:
    1. How would you classify the perspective your leadership book offers its readers?
    2. In your new role, what are you observing about the leadership-management dialectic as described by Warner/Wilder in your part of the Christian family?

  4. mm Eric Basye says:

    Hey there Andy. It sounds as though you appreciated this leadership book more than others. What made it different from some of the others? Do you foresee yourself revisiting this book or using it in another context?

  5. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Andy: In relation to “Obviously, this form of relational investment requires a cultural change within many organizations, beginning at the top with leadership. Maybe the best place to begin to humanize individuals and empathize with them as they experience frustration, setback, and loss” – how would you relate this to Speaking Truth to Power? Does one come before the other? Are they simultaneous?

  6. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Andy, you refer to W/W argument that most organizations are run on fear. If you were to analyze this more, what would you say is the root cause of running on fear?

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