11 leadership disciplines for success

11 Ways To Be a Successful Leader in 2022

Don’t miss PART TWO of this insightful series on leadership disciplines to adopt now for greater success in 2022

From Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President, BDI

As promised, this month I pick up the conversation about how leaders, despite this unpredictable year, can mentally prepare ourselves for the adventure ahead in 2022. In this set of ways to be a successful leader, I’ll share five more leadership disciplines that are far more personal… and because of that, possibly even more difficult to maintain. 

Before I do, I first want to thank those of you who reached out to me personally to offer confirmation of the power of being responsive. In the rapidly changing marketplace of ministries and philanthropy, it’s critical to pivot now instead of just hoping that things will return to the pre-COVID flow. Because it’s pretty clear that’s not happening.

In Review: Six Key Ways To Be a Successful Leader in 2022 

As a quick review, the first six leadership disciplines for success focus on managing information, communications and the resources we steward.

1) Successful leaders PAD THEIR EXPECTATIONS: We’ll need to account for today’s operational realities by increasing lead times and lowering our reliance on timely delivery of supporting products and services.

2) Successful leaders ASK FOR MORE: We’ll need increased and proactive communications from our teams and partners if things are getting off track.

3) Successful leaders LOOK (even further) AHEAD: We’ll need to expand our sources of business intelligence and trendspotting.

4) Successful leaders WORK THEIR NETWORK: There’s never been a better time to reconnect with those in our professional networks so when we need them, they’ll be there.

5) Successful leaders BACK THEIR WINNERS: We should invest more in the strategies that have born great fruit, trusting in their ability to grow.

6) Successful leaders RETAIN THEIR MVPs: Through incentives, providing growth opportunities and with collaborative engagement, we can leverage and keep our committed, high-performance team members on track and on mission. Their retention is key to your ministry’s growth and wellness.

New! Five More Tips for Successful Leadership in 2022 

Here now I’ll shift to five additional, crucial leadership disciplines for success in 2022. As I mentioned earlier, these are far more personal. Even among the best and brightest leaders in ministries and organizations, it’s in these areas that I so often see them slip.  

Perhaps it’s a function of being service-minded. Maybe we’re so focused on systems and strategies and the important outcomes that we’re not always watching the gauges on the primary vehicle we are charged with – ourselves.

Quite honestly, these are all areas where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

7) Successful leaders will RECHARGE AND REFUEL: Surviving to battle another day requires more frequent pit stops, rest spots and refueling pauses. Despite what you may tell yourself (and I’m looking in the mirror here), no one is an infallible machine. Understanding this but not putting a disciplined plan into practice is begging for a breakdown.

I’m blessed by a natural high-gear ratio and a true passion for what we do. I’ve found that most successful leaders have a positive attitude that takes them a long, long way. But it cannot replace disciplined maintenance. 

I was caught off guard this fall, having run my tank bone-dry and earned a nasty case of Shingles (a virus that attacks the nerves), which was brought on by exhaustion I had no idea I was suffering from.

Baffled, I asked my physician why I’d been so “unlucky.” He made me log my food, my sleep, my exercise, my rest and my time off over the past year. Mystery solved.

8) Successful leaders will OPEN UP: Be accountable to someone personally and someone professionally for your work/life balance goals. Right on the heels of #7 comes this bugaboo. 

I love the idea of resting and refueling, exercising and resting, and pursuing a work-life balance. But knowing I didn’t have a plan to do these things, I certainly didn’t open up to more than one trusted friend in my circle and submit to accountability. “I don’t have the time,” I argued to myself. Upon further study of massively successful leaders who sustain, almost always, they’ve prioritized these self-maintenance disciplines. 

9) Successful leaders will PRACTICE WHAT THEY PREACH: This might go without saying, but if we’re encouraging our staff to adopt wise leadership and personal balance practices, it’s actually counterproductive if we’re not putting value to them ourselves. And take it from me, it stings when they can point it out – and they’re right.

10) Successful leaders will be GENEROUS: Never underestimate the power of affirmation; it’s quick, easy, inexpensive and kind. In a sometimes dark and frightening world, a well-timed, honest and caring word can lift spirits and motivate. 

This seems obvious, especially in a ministry environment, but I’ve seen (and often hear) that gratitude and appreciation can be in seriously short supply. It was once suggested to me that this is because “we’re all called to serve the Lord, so it’s not ‘about’ us.” In the secular world, that statement rings similarly to, “a paycheck is your thank you.”  Nonsense. Jesus said, “Love one another.” Period. 

Be generous with your recognition and expressions of gratitude. 

11) Successful leaders will RESPECT THEIR TEAM: However, being an effective leader isn’t all about being a cheerleader and a kudos machine. We must also live up to our responsibilities and obligations through respectful correction and, where necessary, discipline.

Be bold enough to tell the truth including providing honest critique to all those you work with and for. 

My wife, Kelly, made a bold request early on in our relationship, more than 25 years ago. She said, “Please respect me enough to give me the news – not just the good news. Don’t hold back, keep to yourself or leave out unpleasant facts for fear of my reaction.” Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it was a fair request that set the tone for our whole relationship. 

Affirmation opens ears to receive criticism, so lead with something positive to reinforce your respect and intention, and follow with your expert assessment and specific, clear guidance for how to improve and what you expect.

Follow these Leadership Disciplines for More Success in 2022 

These 11 leadership disciplines are drawn directly from what I feel were cornerstones to the success the Lord allowed BDI to achieve this year alongside the amazing leaders of our partners’ ministries *and* from areas I’m committed to improving in 2022 so we can all thrive even more.

As is true for most leaders, we naturally excel in some areas and would benefit from a greater focus on others. It’s my prayer that this discussion will highlight some concepts for your 2022 planning.

This month provides us a perennial opportunity to count our blessings, to relish in fellowship with colleagues and family we love, and to serve others. On behalf of myself and our tribe at BDI, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We’re thankful for you.

We stand with you to release more generosity and together – to help a hurting world.

  • Michael Tomlinson

    Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President

    Michael J. Tomlinson, better known as “MT,” is the CEO and President of BDI. With more than 25 years of executive leadership in business development and media, MT’s expertise involves leading organizations like Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk and Dunham+Company in the ideation and execution of successful integrated marketing, broadcast and digital media, and fundraising strategies that fuel growth.

    As BDI’s President, MT leads the strategic direction, ensuring that the agency is equipped with the talent, tools, and technologies to effectively serve clients long-term by reaching and cultivating loyal, heart-connected and generous financial donors.

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