The Emotionally Healthy Leader
LEADERSHIP MATTERS by Roger Yancey, D.Min.
January marks a season of beginnings. Resolutions are made and good intentions abound, but most are discarded within the first 45 days. I am not going to ask you to make a resolution, but I wonder if you are willing to accept a challenge to grow in your leadership capacity in 2023. Throughout 2023 we will be exploring resources and ways to be the type of servant leader God wants us to be.
It all begins with a life built upon and fully yielded to Christ. To be effective as leaders we need to be sure we monitor, grow, and mature in our emotional health.
In this month of beginnings, we start by asking ourselves a simple question, “Am I an emotionally healthy leader or do I lead out of an unhealthy emotional mindset?” A great resource in answering this question is found in Peter Scazzero’s book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader. Peter Scazzero, served for 26 years as the Senior Pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York a church he founded and now serves as the Teaching Pastor/Pastor at Large has written several bestselling books including The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and Emotionally Healthy Discipleship.
In Chapter 1, Scazzero identifies “The emotionally unhealthy leader is someone who operates in a continuous state of emotional and spiritual deficit, lacking emotional maturity and a “being with God” sufficient to sustain their “doing for God.” These leaders have emotional and spiritual deficits impacting every part of their lives which include a lack of awareness of their feelings, weaknesses, limits, and empathy. Their lack of emotional health impacts their leadership, the people they lead, and every aspect of their lives. They are often doing more than their spiritual capacity can carry and lack a healthy work and sabbath rhythm. As Wayne Cordeiro shared, “They are leading on empty.”
“As a result, emotionally unhealthy leaders skim when building their ministries. Rather than following the apostle Paul’s example of building with materials that will last—gold, silver, and costly stones (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)—they settle for something like wood, straw, and mud. They build with inferior materials that will not stand the test of a generation, let alone the fire of final judgment. In the process, they obscure the beauty of Christ they say they want the whole world to see. No well-intentioned leader would set out to lead this way, but it happens all the time.”
Most of the book is given over to the development of the Inner Life and the Outer Life. Using the familiar motif of a tree, he talks to the reader about the Inner Life showing itself below ground while the Outer Life is manifested above ground.
The Inner Life
Face Your Shadows. “Your shadow is the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than-pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.” The journey into looking into the real impact of our past, of acknowledging and dealing with emotional hurts, and understanding the influences which have shaped us can be a painful but liberating step toward wholeness.
Lead Out of Your Marriage or Singleness. While our primary calling/vocation is to follow Jesus, we do so within our Marriage or Singleness which “must inform our self-understanding and the outworking of our leadership.” If married, our spouse cannot be relegated to a secondary position but must know they are our covenantal partner we deeply love.
Slow Down for Loving Union. “Bearing fruit requires slowing down enough to give Jesus direct access to every aspect of our lives and our leadership…The key question is to what extent is the door of our heart open to him?” “Making the necessary changes to slow down your life for loving union with Jesus is a countercultural, prophetic stance.”
Practice Sabbath Delight. “Biblical Sabbath is a twenty-four-hour block of time in which we stop work, enjoy rest, practice delight, and contemplate God…the fact that Sabbath happens weekly means that it has a rhythm, one that stands in stark contrast to the typical rhythm to the world around us.”
The Outer Life
Planning and Decision Making. “Emotionally healthy planning and decision making begins with an assumption…that as fallen human beings we have a tendency to develop hardened hearts.” If you are not concerned about developing a hardened heart it probably already has. To safeguard our hearts, we need to “define success as radically doing God’s will, creating a space for heart preparation, praying for prudence, and looking for God inside our limits.”
Culture and Team Building. “Creating an emotionally healthy culture and building a healthy
team are among the primary tasks for every leader, whether that leader is a senior pastor … and the task for Christian leaders is even more demanding because the kind of culture and teams we create are to be radically different than those of the world.” This includes understanding our team’s spiritual development, creating a healthy culture, and true biblical team building.
Power and Wise Boundaries. “Navigating the issue of power is a true test of both character and leadership. We’re more than willing to talk about the abuse of power when news breaks about a scandal in someone else’s life, but the minefields surrounding the use of power are rarely acknowledged … This silence leads to consequences and significant harm, with the potential not only to wipe out a lifetime of good work but to undermine our ministries for years to come.” This chapter will provide the reader with the content and context to work through these challenging issues.
Endings and New Beginnings. “Like the ending of the seasons, we experience leadership endings with those we serve. In fact, I would say leaders experience even more endings and losses than the average person. Such losses may span a continuum from large to small, but a loss is a loss, and each one leaves its mark on us. To a greater or lesser degree, these endings drain our energy and diminish our ability to rise for the next challenge. They knock us off balance—at least for a time.” As leaders, we navigate these waters with an understanding of the hope of Christ.
The Emotionally Healthy Leader is a book that will challenge and increase your leadership capacity. I pray in 2023 you will become more and more the Christ follower you have been called to be and serve his church with ever increasing effectiveness.
In Kingdom service,
Executive Director / AMS
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV