Episode 82 with Dr. Marcus Warner


4 Uncommon Habits You Need to Become an Emotionally Healthy and Effective Leader

What would our businesses, organizations, or ministries look like if we combined emotional maturity with effective leadership practices? That is what this episode is all about. Healthy teams begin with healthy leaders, and at the heart of this dynamic is emotional maturity—the quality the greatest leaders possess. Marcus Warner, president of Deeper Walk International combines cutting-edge neurological science with decades of counseling and consulting experience, to show you how to take your leadership and your team to the next level. Listen as Warner shares four uncommon habits that will help you as a leader to improve focus, engagement, and productivity. If you desire to take your organization or team to the next level, it starts with you. Find out how you can be equipped to lead enthusiastic, emotionally mature, relationally connected teams.



Welcome to the Influencers Podcast. I’m Scott Young. Co-Host who along with Dave Donaldson. Bringing you into a journey to increase your influence, to change your world and to change the world that you live in to go from your neighborhood to the nations.

Dave is out on assignment today, but we’ve got a fast program looking at some uncommon habits. You know, there’s really three essential concepts that help us to grow in our influence, our focus, our engagement, and our productivity.

Today, we’re talking with Marcus Warner. He is a scholar. He is a President of Deeper Walk International. He’s got a varied background. He’s worked as a pastor. As a college professor. He’s has been an author – he’s written on various subjects – as varied as spiritual warfare, emotional healing, and leadership. He has helped organizations like the Navigators, Willow Creek Prison Ministry, Moody Church. He brings practical tools for dealing with root issues that keep people stuck. He’d really like to see us get unstuck today. And Marcus want to welcome you to the Influencers Podcast. Thanks for joining us today.

Yeah, it’s a really an honor, Scott. Good to be here.

Engagement vs. Productivity

Oh, we really appreciate it. You know, just reading those words: “focus engagement productivity.” I was thinking about them. What’s the difference between engagement, what that word means to you and, and productivity?

Well they’re great words because engagement is about relational participation. How do you create engagement? How do you get your people to do the stuff that you want them to do? That’s engagement. Productivity is kind of the result of engagement. So it’s much more re results oriented. So in order to increase our productivity, we have to increase our engagement and the word focus is perfect there too, because they actually describe the two sides of what your brain is doing. One really excels at focusing on things. The other side really focuses on creating engagement and the results of those are productivity.

Our Focus Dwindling?

So focus. Do you believe that people’s focus has diminished over these years? Or what do we do to increase focus?

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. They is no question our attention span has diminished. So one of the things that you know, my co-author Dr. Wilder, is a neuroscience expert. And one of the things that he’s helped me understand is that we have a fast track system in our brain that is constantly checking out what’s going on in the background, kind of at a subconscious level. And it’s responsible for telling my brain what to focus on. And when I do focus on it, it tells me it needs my undivided attention. I have to really dive in here. So we’ve got a couple of issues.

One is we focus on the wrong things and the other is we don’t stay long enough or in the right way to actually get to problem solving. And that’s really what focus is about -which problem am I supposed to be solving right now?

The Cause

Do you think technology that is constantly grasping for our attention beeping phone call coming in, do you, that has diminished our focus?

Yeah, I do. I think for one thing, we have so many voices calling for our attention that we focus on wrong things. And we get things that beep and all of a sudden I’ve lost my focus on what I was doing because something beeped. And that’s had to affect our productivity in the long run. I have to be able to maintain my focus on what’s really important in order to get the results that I’m looking for.

So, how do you think we focus with all of this technology? Do we, do we turn it all off? Do we just say I’m not dealing with that right now? Or, maybe some habits you use in your life?

Yeah. Well there’s times when you have to turn it all off, right? It’s like nobody can disconnect completely, but there’s have to be periods of time and windows in your life where you disconnect. There’s have to be some ways that you aren’t available.

I heard one person call their phone their “electric leash”. There’s times you don’t want to be available. And I think that everybody needs that and it’s just good for us. Yeah, when I’m going to write a book or something like that, I have to have hours of time where I can’t be interrupted. Because I need that kind of focus.

So you brought these concepts; Can you help us to understand them and our listeners that want to just increase in their ability to influence an ability to lead? You’ve written the book, “‘Rare Leadership in the Workplace’”, and you talk about rare habits. So let’s delve into those what those habits are, how they help our lives.

Rare Habits of a Leader

So these habits are really focusing on engagement, right? That’s the problem we’re trying to solve? How do I create greater engagement? So I become a more effective leader and the rare isn’t a cross stick to help us remember.

So R is “remain relational”. “A” is, “Act like yourself”. And the second R is “return to joy”. And if we do those, it’s the ability to do those while we’re enduring hardship.

So E is “endure hardship well”, and the idea here is that literally comes from the way our brain operates. That is if when I get upset emotionally, if I get too much emotion, my brain will start to cramp. And when it does, I lose access to my higher level brain functions. And it’s at those higher level brain functions that I have the ability to be upset, but stay relational. I have the ability to get upset, but act like myself. And that’s what we mean by maturity. Mature people remain relational. They act like themselves. They return to joy and thus they endure hardship well. And those are the four habits of our leadership.

So remain relational. So say something like ticks me off. Somebody cuts in front of me or there’s a someone barges into my office with a bad news. How do I remain relational when I feel my blood pressure rising?

That is kind of what separates mature from immature. And that is immature people. As soon as the blood pressure rises, that top level of their brain stops functioning effectively. And as a result, I turn into a different person and I stop being relational. And now what happens when you can think about moving from the right side of your brain to the left and that my left side’s all about problem solving. And when I stop being relational, what I now do is I treat you like a problem to be solved instead of treating you like a person, which is what remaining relational is. I start treating you like you are a problem. And as soon as I do that, I go into damage control. I’m just trying to protect myself from emotions. I don’t want to feel. And I stop really worrying about you. And remaining relational is essentially the idea. I want to keep those relational circuits in my brain functioning so that I don’t shut down. I don’t blow up. I don’t, you know, melt down, but you’re still going to get me even when I get upset.

So when you say act like yourself, you mean act like your better self, not your worst?

Too many of us define who we are by our malfunctions. When we’re malfunctioning. What we’re talking about here is that there’s actually a center in my brain that is kind of the captain of the brain and what it is working and what it is on that I get my best self. And when we’re talking about acting like my best self, that is exactly right. And that’s where that comes from.

Can you think of a scenario in your life where you had to like, okay, be aware I’m slipping into my non self or my worst self and pulling yourself back from that?
Oh yeah. When I first noticed it, it was obvious in my marriage. And that is sure. And that’s where you notice that there’s this tone of voice that gets used and you can feel yourself shutting down. And I’m like, okay. I,will tell myself things like, “Keep the relationship bigger than the problem”. Okay. “Don’t turn your wife into a problem here”. So the same place in the workplace, it’s when somebody brings me bad news. When somebody like shames me and makes me feel like something’s my fault when I know that isn’t my fault – I treat them like temptations, right? These are the moments where I am now going to be tempted to become immature, treat them like a problem and stop acting like myself. But if I can’t be the same person, when I feel shame that I am when I’m not feeling ashamed, then people are going to walk around me on eggshells. They are never going to know which Mark they’re going to get. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. So when we say act like yourself, it’s that consistency of character that says “I can get angry, but you don’t have to be afraid of me when I get angry, because I’m going to remain relational and act like myself”.

So you’re doing some self talk. Like you’re almost reframing the story. Is that a way to say what you’re doing?

Yeah. Especially while you’re learning the skills. That’s what you’ve have to do the goal. And a reason we talk about these as habits is that mature people aren’t talking themselves through it. It just happens automatically because it’s become a habit. But while I’m growing the habit, yeah. I’ve got to I’ve got to recognize that I’m in a moment of temptation. I’ve have to go through some self talk and I have to realize that the problem I’m trying to solve here is how to get the rest of my brain online and act like myself. A more important problem right now than actually dealing with the person in front of me, making sure that I act like myself.

Training the Brain

Is it different for different people, but how long to move from practicing, practicing, practicing, until it becomes a habit?

Yeah. Well, habits require a minimum 30 days to begin to form. That’s because as your neural pathways form in your brain, it takes about 30 days for the white matter to begin to form. And then it takes about three months for something to really start becoming where you’re not thinking about it. And that’s your practical terms. We’re looking at one to three months for something to become where I don’t have to go through the process of thinking myself through it.

So it’s not just finish reading the book, “Rare Leadership in the Workplace”, closing the cover and go, “There, I’ve got it”. You didn’t have to practice the practices.

Joy in the Workplace

You talk about joy, which is very fascinating. And you return to joy. Talk about what that means and the importance of joy in the workplace, in your home and your family. Just talk about the importance of joy?

There’s a guy named Dr. Allen Shore. Who’s sometimes been called the “Einstein of Modern Psychoanalysis”. He came out of the UCLA Medical Center and when they first started being able to do brain scans and studied the in real time he really is the one who came up with the idea that your brain wants to run on the fuel of joy and that if it can’t run on the fuel of joy, it will default to the fuel of fear. And I’m either going to be running on joy or I’m going to be running on fear. Well, if I run on fear, then I tend to use negative emotions to motivate myself. I tend to use negative emotions to motivate the people around me and I create engagement with fear. So I use an anger and shame – those sorts of things with people and it always creates a toxic environment around me.

So when we’re talking about living on the fuel of joy, where there’s literally a part of your brain right behind your right eye, that grows with the experience of joy. And the more that I can train my brain, that I’m not just looking for problems to solve in this life. There’s plenty of problems. I have to learn what there is to enjoy. What there is that brings me peace. What there is that helps me take a break. I have to create a rhythm to my life. That’s sustainable because if I’m constantly running on fear, then I’m treating everything like a crisis and I’m going to burn myself out. I’m going to burn out the people around me. So when we talk about returning to joy what that technically means is I have to get my brain out of the cramp that it’s in so that the higher levels of my brain can function. The part of my brain that knows that, that, that grows with joy. That’s also the same part of my brain that remembers who I am and how it’s like me to act. So all of these things are really about activating those higher level brain functions.
You said there’s something behind my right eye?
What is that?
So what happens is the way that your brain grows when you’re a baby, is it grows up and it like hits the top of your skull and begins to bend forward. So the top of your brain isn’t at the top of your head. The top of your brain is actually behind your right eye. And \ that part of your brain will grow over time with the experience of joy and it determines your capacity for joy. And there are high joys. People tend to be emotionally mature people because you think about it this way. If you wake up on a low joy day, it just doesn’t take as much to overwhelm you. But if you wake up with a high joy day, it’s going to take a lot more upset to kind of push you past your capacity. So there’s a direct connection between joy and my emotional capacity to remain relational, to act like myself. And if I lose those abilities, the second, then the third thing I have to learn how to do is I have to learn how to recover. How do I get back once I’ve lost it? And we all do that. Because we’ve all hit our limit, our capacity. We all say same things to people we regret. Like, you know, “I wish I hadn’t said that.” “I wish I hadn’t given him that look”; it’s a sign that I’ve got a problem here that I need to recover from. And that’s what we mean by returning to joy.
So are you a joyful person if I asked your wife?

Yeah. Would she say, “Yes, my husband is a joyful guy”.

Yeah. That’s a great a question. I could be really relational and really joyful at times. But what happened is I began to notice that there were holes in my maturity and she would tell you, there are holes in my maturity. And that is that I am basically a joyful person, but if certain buttons get pushed, I would lose my joy quickly and I get stuck in negative emotions. So the thing I’ve had to be working on, like just as writing this book is kinda like giving me a journey. This is a journey I need to be on – recognizing which emotions do I struggle the most with and returning to joy from which emotions are that are the biggest stumbling blocks for me. That’s what I’ve been working on.
I was raised very left brain – very analytical. Most leaders are because most leaders get where they are because they’re excellent at problem solving. But the leaders we love to follow are not only good at problem solving, but also have the maturity that they do relationship well and they handle emotions well, and that’s what we’re really talking about. That’s what separates the leaders we have to follow from the leaders we love to follow.

So for our people that are listening, is it possible for them to implement, practice these habits and literally end up three months, six months next year at this time, just with a general sense of greater joy, will they smile more? Will they laugh a lot?

They will smile more. They will have a greater sense of peace. It will be harder for them to get overwhelmed. It will help them grow if they put these things into practice. Because what happens is literally things start changing in your brain. Your brain is a natural amplifier. And if up until now, your brain has learned, “Oh, what we’re supposed to look for and make big are problems”, then that’s what your brain will do. And I will say this about joy, the joy, the way we’re talking about is always relational.
Ah, that’s very good.

Right? And for instance, if I’m doing work and I’m thinking about when I turn this in, they’re going to be so happy, right? I’m already experiencing joy while I’m doing my work. Just anticipating, you know, how happy I know people are going to be when I’m done, but if I’m doing my work and I’m thinking, “Oh my word, I could get in big trouble”. And my whole motivation while I’m working is the fear of what might happen at the end of all this, that’s not sustainable. Right? I can’t do that all the time. It just wears me out.

It turns my insides out. Sometimes you have to deal with those things. But what we’re trying to do is retrain our brain to be able to enter a place of joy and peace. Joy and peace are kinda like the flip sides of the same coin. So joy is a high energy, happy to be with you. And peace is a low, low energy, happy to be with you, kinda like we can hang out. We don’t have to be on and that’s great. That’s peace or we can be together and we can really be an enjoying this and have a good time and laughing. And that’s joy. That’s high energy joy. So we all need both in our lives.

Joy is Relational

So just listening to it, and I’m thinking in my head, “Is there any joy that is not relational?” I’m just thinking of my moments of joy, what brings me joy, right? What gets me going? They’re all connected to people that are part of that joyful experience. Is there joy without a relational aspect?

Not from your brain’s perspective. There is no joy without relationship. Now that doesn’t mean you have to be with somebody. You can have joy remembering somebody. Sure. And you can have joy anticipating somebody. And you can also have joy with people. So I look at it past, present, and future, and it’s important. That’s why it’s really important for us to have something to anticipate with joy in our lives. People who don’t have anything they’re looking forward to get depressed a lot more, a lot more quickly. People who don’t have those joy connections, they look backwards and they don’t see a lot of joy. They look in their present. They don’t have a lot of joyful connections with people and they look in their future. They see no hope of joyful connections in the future. Those people are in trouble emotionally, right?

That is not a recipe for emotional capacity. And that’s why this is so important – because we all have to face problems. We all have to face big emotions. I’d rather do it with people who I know are happy to be with me, even in those emotions. And that’s really what leaders are supposed to do. I think that the number one job of a leader is to create a culture where people are happy to be together in the midst of the problems, that the more problems you face and recover from, the more emotions your group faces and returns from, the stronger, the more cohesive that group becomes. And the less accountability you need because people know what’s expected. It’s just part of the culture it’s not built in. And people start saying things like, “This is who we are. This is how we do things”, and it comes out spontaneously. And I think the job of the leader is creating a, a joy based culture rather than a fear-based culture. And that’s something I think a lot of us miss.

How Do You Create a Joy Based Culture?

How do you create a joy based culture? Say you are a person of faith, you’ve read your book and you’re living and you’re working in a place that’s not too joyful, not too full of faith. How do you make an influence in a place that is difficult?

Well, let me give you an example. Okay. So there was a nursing unit at a major hospital in Baltimore and the concepts of the book didn’t come out yet, but they they’d heard the teaching on the concepts, took it to their nursing unit. “We are going to become a joyful unit”. Again, major hospital, huge city. And what they did is they did a couple of just basic training things. So that is when you first walk into the room, make eye contact, show some curiosity, express appreciation, and be kind. So be curious, show appreciation, be kind, make eye contact, and then go about your work and just add those little elements to it and watch what happens. And you start training in these little skill builders along the way.

And before, you know, it, people are looking forward to seeing you the next time you see it because they know that you’re going to be genuinely curious about their perspectives and their emotions. You’re going to be genuinely appreciative about things. And that makes all the difference in the world. And what was interesting about this particular case was that at the same time this is happening in this unit, another unit was going high accountability and they were sort of doubling down on fear. And what you found was patient approval rate ratings went up 33% in that unit in just a couple of months as they began realized doctors were faster to make their rounds. Nurses were wanting to get transferred there. Everybody wanted to be on this unit because they were keeping relationships bigger than problems. Whereas on the high accountability unit problems was everything. And if you didn’t deal with the problems you were in more trouble. And it was just a scale of how much fear do you want to deal with.

So just run through the acrostic one more time. We get those four habits that we need to be working on. Just give ’em to us again.

Yeah. Remain relational, act like yourself, return to joy when you lose it and then endure hardship well.


Talk about hardship, because there are people that are facing difficult times. There’s there’s teams that are broken. You talked about hope and having a positive expectation. How do we develop a habit of enduring hardship?

So first of all, you, we recognize that it is a goal. This is what the Bible would call long suffering. And the idea here is what does it mean to suffer? Well, because we all suffer, right? We all have to go through stuff like this. So to do it well is simply to practice those first three habits. And the idea is that if we’re all having to deal with wearing masks more than we want to wear masks, and it gets hot and it gets sticky, it’s like, there’s things about it we don’t like, and then we all have to do stuff. We in the workplace that is hard and people blame us for things that aren’t our fault and people get angry and there’s, there’s a lot of emotion in the workplace.

So what we’re trying to do is give ourselves a tracks to run on here. And that is well, what is that? I need to be focusing on staying relational. It’s the people in the group who when everything is falling apart around them, they’re the ones who remain relational and act like themselves and can help everybody else return to joy. Those are the people we need, right? That’s the level of maturity we’re looking for in those situations. So we have to grow to be that sort of person. It’s not just a choice we make instantaneously, but it starts with the choices we make. And it’s like, I had a pastor friend who used to say whenever there was a meeting, “Well who’s going to be the adult in the room?” And you know what he meant.

It’s like, who’s going to make sure the emotions don’t get out of hand. Who’s going to make sure that the relationships stay bigger than the problem? And that this doesn’t turn into a disaster. And that’s sense to what we’re describing. We’re describing what is adult maturity? And we’re using the brain science underneath it to anchor that as this is why we know this is what maturity is, because this is your brain functioning well underneath all of this stress. So the yeah, remaining relational means I don’t shut down. I don’t blow up. If I do, then I realize I have to return to joy. I have to do some repair here. And I want to get back to being relational as soon as I can.

Connect with Mark

Wow. Fascinating. this book would be a great read. People can find it. How, how do they connect with you? How do they connect with all the material that you are talking about?

Well, the rare leadership specifically is rare Okay. And we we have two books, we got a rare leadership original book, which is more ministry oriented and actually is a bigger book with a lot more brain science in it. But we wrote it for people in Christian ministry. Then the second and “Rare Leadership in the Workplace” was because a lot of people were coming to our training and going, “Yeah, I love it. But I can’t take this Bible forward book into the workplace”. So we were in a workplace version of it, much shorter, hard back and it’s brain science forward. And but an easy read and quick. We’ve also put 8 maturity workouts into that book so that you are like, okay, I have concrete exercises. I can start working on to build these things into my life. So again, that’s And that’s where they’d find us
What a joy. And I want to thank you very much. I’ve learned that it’s either going to be joy or fear. if I see self and fear, I can’t be enjoyed at the same time. And just to be conscious of that inner story, that’s going on inside my own soul. I like to live joy. And this is a fascinating brain science forward way of looking at it. I’ve learned that the top of my brain is behind my right eye.
There you go.
And Dr. Marcus, thank you very much for being with us today. Thank you very much for sharing with us here on the Influencers Podcast. And we just appreciate the conversation.

Well, absolutely. You guys are doing great work and it’s nice to be part of it.
And all friends remember that you are called to be an influencer in your neighborhood and reach out to the nations. We want you to shine brightly in a dark world. We want you to be that love, that never fails. And please smile more. Please laugh a lot and have more joy in your life. I’m Scott Young, the Influencers Podcast.


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