Michael Tomlinson, BDI CEO & President

QUICK SHOT: 5 Best Practices of Successful Leaders

By Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO & President

Over the past few months, we’ve been exploring how leaders (despite these unpredictable years) can mentally prepare for the adventure ahead, and establish best practices for 2022.

Today, I want to share 5 best practices of successful leaders that are far more personal… and because of that, possibly even more difficult to maintain. 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.

Now, here are 5 Best Practices of Successful Leaders….

  1. 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.

  1. 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, it’s found that, almost always, they’ve prioritized these self-maintenance disciplines. 

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.


These five best practices of successful leaders are drawn directly from what I feel were cornerstones to the success the Lord allowed BDI to achieve last 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 as you boldly step into 2022. 

On behalf of myself and our tribe at BDI, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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

Check out last week’s Quick Shot – “6 Tips to be a Successful Leader in 2022 ”>>

  • 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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