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Part 1: The Top 10 Challenges to be an Emotionally Healthy Leader

Posted on April 18th, 2017

I have been thinking and writing about the qualities of emotionally healthy leadership since 1996. Each book (e.g. The Emotionally Healthy Leader) and theme in The EH Discipleship Courses touches a different facet of emotionally healthy leadership. Yet, as I continue on my own growth journey and interact with leaders, my nuancing of these challenges continues to sharpen.

The following are the first 5 of my 10 challenges to being an emotionally healthy leader:

  1. Deep Loving Union and Surrender. Behind the pressure and demands that seek to cut us off from abiding in Jesus are powers and principalities of evil. To follow Jesus’ voice and will, regardless of where He leads, requires a deep trust developed through a long, slow history of being with Him in secret. This kind of depth cannot be learned in a class or book. Antidote: Faithfulness to spiritual practices. Obedience in the small things. Initiative to position yourself in places where you will be challenged spirituality (e.g. retreats, trainings, spiritual directors, mentors).
  2. High Self-Awareness. This grows more challenging as we grow older and move into larger levels of responsibility. Our shadows are elusive and impossible to eradicate this side of heaven. They rear their ugly heads in our leadership when we least expect it, especially when we are riding a wave of success or failure. Antidote: Be reflective. And take initiative to invite wise people to speak into your life (e.g. mentors, therapists, spiritual directors, trusted friends).
  3. Deep Brokenness and Vulnerability. I wrote about this in The Emotionally Healthy Church in 2003. I realize now, however, that it is best understood on a scale – perhaps of 0 to 10. Can I let go of my position? My title? People’s praise? Am I open to hearing criticism – even from people that don’t say it with the kindness and maturity that I prefer? Am I vulnerable to those around me about my mistakes and sins? In what area(s) of my life might I be presenting myself to be something I am not? Antidote: Repent daily, perhaps hourly. Invite multiple, courageous people to speak truth into your life. Take adequate time for reflection.
  4. Limits. Almost everything we do takes double, or triple, the time we expect. Determining our goals before God takes time. Breaking down these goals into specific steps, followed by thinking how much time each step will take, takes even more time. Including others in our process takes time. And plotting this all out on our calendars takes even more time. Leadership is hard. Painful. It grounds us in our limits. Then, taking an honest inventory of the time, energy, and ability of those who work for us, confronts us with our humanity once again. Antidote: Take ample time to prayerfully get clear on God’s goals and to think through the steps needed to accomplish those goals. Again, find a wise friend or consultant who does this well. Get mentored in this area.
  5. Lifelong Learning. The world is changing so rapidly that, if we are not learning and growing, we are in trouble. The people we lead are in trouble also. I am amazed at how many leaders can’t be bothered (“I have too much to do”) or stop learning from others once they have achieved a certain level of “success.” This is one of my criteria for a good hire. Antidote: Make this a non-negotiable for your team and ministry. Model it in your own development. Be sure to create a culture of learning and growth.

I will share the remaining 5 challenges next week. Let me invite you to prayerfully consider if God is calling you to join us live in New York City or via Live Stream for our Emotionally Healthy Leadership Conference in 2 weeks, so you can be equipped in these areas.


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