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  • Writer's pictureBrent Stromwall

RARE Leadership, part 1 - Leadership vs Management

I have worked with some fantastic managers over the years. These are the folks that know how to “get ‘r done.” They are focused on goals, processes, and performance. They can manage schedules, coordinate communications, conduct analyses, and plan for tomorrow, next week, and next month. Managers manage things, activities, and tasks to do what is expected of them. Yet, these folks are not necessarily leaders. Leaders lead. And by definition, things cannot be led. Leaders don’t lead a what – they lead a who. Managers manage things. Leaders lead a person or group of people.

Drs. Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder in their book, Rare Leadership, define leadership this way: “producing and maintaining full engagement from our group in what matters.”[1] Leadership is not about efficiency, performance, or getting the task done. It’s about building a “strong repertoire of positive relational habits that produce trust, joy, and engagement.”[2] The outcome is a team that wants to be together (joy: they’re glad to be together) and work together on the common goals of the team – whatever those may be (what matters). When working in joy, people and teams will have their greatest impact.

Terina Allen agrees: “In business school and graduate school, I learned that management is the act or skill of directing, controlling, handling, deciding, overseeing, etc. Not even one of these words fits in with anything I want another person doing to me or for me. How about you? I also learned that leadership is about influencing, developing, coaching, guiding, mentoring, or supervising people. So we need to be leading people and managing all that other stuff. The distinction is real and it matters.”[3]

How does a leader “produce and maintain full engagement?" They must be relational. Management is not relational. The manager is dealing with software applications, paper, and other tools to affect their job. Leaders, however, must be relationally mature. They must know what it takes to create joy in a team – where people are glad to be together – and help the team return to joy after enduring hardship. The Rare Leader does four things exceptionally well:

R – Remain Relational – Despite circumstances and problems and how daunting they may be, they keep relationships bigger than the problems.

A – Act Like Yourself – Whatever emotions this leader faces – fear, overwhelm, inadequacy, confusion – they consistently remain true to their character. The people around them feel secure knowing that they won’t be on the receiving end of a tirade.

R – Return to Joy – After feeling negative emotions, they are able to return to joy themselves and help others do the same. These leaders are genuinely glad to be with others, and others are genuinely glad to be with the leaders because they acted like themselves.

E – Endure Hardships Well – The Rare Leader knows that on the other side of the hardship is joy. And although they don’t like hardship, they recognize it is part of life. They know that enduring hardship well and then returning to joy is the healthiest way to deal with it – and best for the relationship(s). They don’t have outbursts, go into hiding, or turn to some coping mechanism.

Becoming a RARE Leader cannot be done alone. You won’t learn it just by reading a book. To learn relational skills you must relate with those who can transfer the skills to you. This happens on a subconscious level, not through conscious reasoning. More on that in an upcoming blog. Let’s start by tackling the first R – Remain Relational. It’s difficult to do when you’re triggered by negative emotions and most of us aren’t even aware that it’s happening. However, the RARE Leader keeps the relationship bigger than the problem. Read more on this in my next blog, RARE Leadership, part 2 - Becoming Overwhelmed.

[1] 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) 20 [2] Warner and Wilder, Rare Leadership, 22 [3] Terina Allen, “What Is The Difference Between Management And Leadership?,” Forbes, Oct 9, 2018,

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Sep 25, 2020

Spot on, Brent. I hope more leaders across faith-based and corporate organizations develop the maturity and relational skills associated with being able to successfully lead teams from a platform of trust, joy and calm into increasing engagement. Joy-based leadership gets my vote!


Sep 13, 2020

This is a good reminder that as the leader, I don't even have to KNOW all the details that are being managed in my organization. I have sometimes felt like I should personally have expertise with all the tasks and operations across the board. In reality, I simply have to build my teams with good people I trust to get the work done — and make this a joyful place for them to use their management and operational skills to help our customers.

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