11 Ways To Be a Successful Leader in 2022

Don’t miss part one of this insightful series on how to be a successful leader in 2022

From Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President, BDI

It’s been said that failure is a compass that points to success. 

In other words, knowing what hasn’t worked well at your organization can directly lead you to more fruitful ways to be a successful leader in 2022. I believe that this concept, as well as “back your winners” have equal merit. 

As leaders within our ministries and organizations, even as we keep a close eye on the ever-critical Q4 season and the year-end fundraising sprint, we really ought to also now be assessing which of our leadership disciplines was most successful in helping us stretch across the finish line and what has not met the mark of our expectations in 2021.  

I’d like to share 11 personal insights and vital disciplines that I’m focusing on to be a successful leader in 2022. In doing so, I’m also telegraphing to you my compass coordinates and backing plans directly established from a review of my own personal shortfalls and galloping horses this dynamic year ‒ I’ll let you guess which was which! 

Here are the first 6 ways to be a successful leader in 2022…

1. Successful leaders pad their expectations: 

The chickens have come home to roost. About this time last year, I projected we hadn’t yet felt the significant, coming impacts of the disruption to business flows around the world. Among the most significant this year has been a lack of able-bodied and willing workers to resume jobs that deliver goods and services from points A to points B in the United States, as well as limited products and components supplies from overseas producers due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

Virtually all businesses have experienced this, whether they produce products or provide services. More frustrating is that there’s no anticipated solution within sight. So, we must increase lead times and lower our expectations that reliable and timely delivery will return to “normal” soon. 

2. Successful leaders ask for more:

Because of this disruption in so many key supply chains, we’ll need to be abnormally proactive when communicating with suppliers, service providers and partners. No one likes to disappoint, so it’s human nature to want to “wait out” challenges or try to fix errors before others find out. However, this prohibits us from pivoting in a timely fashion and from making necessary adjustments on our end.   

Reiterate your expectations with everyone you depend upon and those who depend on you, specifically requesting proactive alerts if things are getting off track. Having clarity and a common understanding will pay dividends. 

3. Successful leaders look (even further) ahead: 

We need to develop robust feeder systems for good intel and for how we’ll learn what may be coming next. Where will you look, listen, read, study in 2022? What and whom do you trust as accurate sources for trendspotting?  

If we don’t establish a plan for this critical function, we’ll not likely be as informed or equipped as we need to be to make the necessary moves to leverage change, to pivot or to adopt, adapt or avoid. 

4. Successful leaders work their network: 

Expand your inner circle and re-invest more into those relationships. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this. 

OK, so we all had a lot of catching up to do this year after being grounded for most of 2020. But, despite marginal service and abysmal reliability of planes, trains and automobiles, we can safely get back out and connect with those friends and wise counselors not only in our networks but outside our organizations.   

This has been a focus of mine over the last decade that’s paid massive dividends for me personally, for my organizations and those whom we serve. And over these past few years, I’ve repeatedly been reminded how critical it is to be connected to the big brains and bright lights out there. Not only is it time to reconnect with our support systems, but we should be intentionally expanding them in 2022. It won’t happen all by itself. 

5. Successful leaders back their winners:

There’s a balance to this awesome universe the Lord created. The time we manage is fixed, existing either in the past or ahead of us. Money doesn’t disappear (generally) either – it just moves from one place to another. 

As a leader, it may be more important than ever to have a detailed and accurate understanding of what’s working and what’s not, what’s growing and what’s not, and what’s helping your ministry – and what’s not.   

With that knowledge, I encourage you to commit to something profound – invest more in your 2021 winners (growth strategies that are performing well) and run with them in 2022 until another proven winner takes pace and runs ahead. 

I often see two things that can be wildly unproductive from both nonprofit strategists and leaders in unsure seasons: 

  1. They doubt the ability of the winners to sustain.
  2. Instead of feeding the winners, they hold fuel back and get too conservative. 

Let’s not do either in 2022. In fact, we should be faithfully and confidently doubling down and riding these galloping stallions so their results can help offset the unpredictable and marginalized impact of underperformers. 

6. Successful leaders retain their MVPs:

Not only should we back our winners, but we’ll have to be more intentional and probably more generous in order to keep them winning with us. It’s almost always “cheaper” to retain than to replace. Invest in your loyal MVPs that are moving the needle. Provide the evidence that driving excellence and impact yields commensurate personal reward – even in changing and unsure times… maybe especially in these times!

Let’s state the obvious here too – organizations may be at a disadvantage due to the shortage of supply and exponential increase in demand for talent. The exceptional staff on your team – they’re even more important and have additional leverage in this competitive environment.  

Realizing this, my advice is to be proactively generous. Whether it’s financial compensation, additional flexibility or other benefits – 2022 is a great time to demonstrate how you value your MVPs, within the capability of the organization, in order to keep your best players winning for your team

Conclusion The heart of a leader: 

While few will admit it openly, even the most confident and successful leaders have anxiety and fears. It’s been my experience that most of these insecurities come from a deep desire for the well-being of our teams, for excellence in service and for the successful outreach of our ministries – all while realizing that, in the big picture, we control so little. 

I’m convinced that greater focus on establishing realistic expectations, expanding our communications internally and externally, hooking up and locking in with winners and investing for the best while preparing for disruptions will significantly increase our odds of… 


MT’s self-assessment thus far this year: I’m on track with #3, #4, #5 and #6. #1 and #2 need some work. 

These first 6 disciplines largely involve what we can do with others to be a successful leader in 2022. In Part 2 next month, I’ll share 5 more leadership disciplines that focus on how we successfully manage and lead ourselves for greater stamina, effectiveness and satisfaction

I appreciate you and admire your sacrifices. And we at BDI stand with you in your leadership of fine teams. May the Lord be our ultimate compass and unleash an abundance of impact as the reward for our commitment to always be learning, growing and grateful. 

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 

Check out MT’s recent article, “The what and why behind BDI’s rebranding” >>

  • Michael Tomlinson, BDI CEO and President

    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.

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