Book Review: The Emotionally Healthy Leader



The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Pastor Pete Scazzero is one of the best books that I have read in a long time.  I’m so grateful that I grabbed this book at the last minute heading out the door on vacation last week!  If you are considering reading this book and taking the time to really assess your emotional health, vacation carves out the time to do this in a way that is so refreshing and encouraging.  Just this evening I was sharing with a friend how much I enjoyed the thoughtful assessments in this book that caused me to ask myself some questions that I really needed to deal with.  My pastor recommended this book as one of the best ones he has read lately and I definitely understand why!  I am already thinking through some significant changes to my leadership style in order to accommodate a better rhythm of serving my team well by modeling what it means to be an emotionally healthy leader.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • God opened my eyes to see I was a human being, not a human doing, which gave me permission to feel difficult emotions such as anger and sadness.
  • Leading out of our brokenness and weaknesses become a core value.
  • Unhealthy leaders engage in more activities than their combined spiritual, physical, and emotional reserves can sustain.
  • When we devote ourselves to reaching the world for Christ while ignoring our own emotional and spiritual health, our leadership is shortsighted at best.
  • Emotionally unhealthy leaders do not practice Sabbath—a weekly, twenty-four-hour period in which they cease all work and rest, delight in God’s gifts, and enjoy life with him.
  • I ask leaders to tell me about how they are cultivating their relationship with God.  I ask questions like: “Describe to me your rhythms, how you study Scripture apart from preparations, when and how much time you spend alone with God.”
  • I found out the things I ignored eventually erupted into much bigger problems later.  We have to ask the painful, difficult questions we prefer to ignore or the church will pay a much higher price later.
  • We lead more out of who we are than out of what we do, strategic or otherwise.  If we fail to recognize that who we are on the inside informs every aspect of our leadership, we will do damage to ourselves and to those we lead.
  • Mature spiritual leadership is forged in the crucible of difficult conversations, the pressure of conflicted relationships, the pain of setbacks, and dark nights of the soul.
  • 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 degree to which you recognize and engage your own shadow is the degree to which you can free others to face theirs.
  • Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:8-10
  • Paul’s shadows was not a source of shame.  Instead, it became a source of healthy boasting, providing a means through which Jesus’ power and life flowed through him.
  • What am I feeling?  And what am I feeling about that feeling?
  • What am I sad about?  Glad about?  Angry about?  Anxious about?
  • Where in my body am I feeling tension or stress?  What might this be telling me about what is going on inside of me?
  • A negative script is an internalized message from the past that shapes our conscious and unconscious behaviors in the present.
  • Married couples bear witness to the depth of Christ’s love.  Their vows focus and limit them to loving one person exclusively, permanently, and intimately.  Singles—vowed or dedicated—bear witness to the breadth of Christ’s love.  Because they are not limited by a vow to one person, they have more freedom and time to express the love of Christ to a broad range of people.  Both marrieds and singles point to and reveal Christ’s love, but in different ways.  Both need to learn from one another about these different aspects of Christ’s love.
  • In order to be a good steward of the limited resource that is you, it is vital that you discern the kinds of people, places, and activities that bring you joy.  Routinely ask yourself, What restores and replenishes my soul?  What fills me with delight?
  • Bearing fruit requires slowing down enough to give Jesus direct access to every aspect of our lives and leadership.  Just because God has access to everything that is true about us does not mean God has access to us.  Loving union is an act of surrender—giving God complete access—and we can’t do that in a hurry.  We must be humbly accessible, with the door of our hearts continually open to him.  Jesus doesn’t force that on us; it is something only we can do.
  • Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.  Revelation 3:20
  • In what ways does my current pace of life and leadership enhance or diminish my ability to allow God’s will and presence full scope in my life?
  • What do you currently do that nurtures your spirit and fills you with delight?
  • What people, places, and activities do you need to avoid because they deplete you or make it difficult for you to remain anchored in Christ?
  • What “have to’s” impact your rhythms in this season of life?
  • Endeavor to keep your heart open, soft, and responsive.
  • Sabbath is a twenty-four-hour block of time in which we stop work, enjoy rest, practice delight, and contemplate God.
  • On the Sabbath we embrace our limits.  We let go of the illusion that we are indispensable to the running of the world.  We recognize we will never finish all our goals and projects, and that God is on the throne, managing quite well in ruling the university without our help.
  • “Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath while still in this world, unless one is initiated in the appreciation of eternal life, one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come…The essence of the world to come is Sabbath eternal, and the seventh day in time is an example of eternity.”  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • On Sabbath, we practice eternity in time.
  • Shame testifies not to wrong doing but to flawed being.
  • Part of who we are is what we do.  God is a worker, and we are workers.  But that is not the deepest truth about who we are.  We are first of all human beings.  But when things get switched around and our role or title becomes the foundation of our identity, we are reduced to human doings.
  • Sabbath is a priceless diamond with many facets, each reflecting God’s presence with us and his love for us.  And just as facets reflect unique aspects of a diamond, Sabbath becomes increasingly brilliant the more we explore and practice it.  That’s when we find ourselves standing in the radiance of Sabbath’s lovely facets, in wonder and awe at the brilliance of God to which Sabbath points.
  • Keeping the Sabbath is a core spiritual discipline—an essential delivery mechanism for God’s grace and goodness in our lives.  It provides a God-ordained way to slow us down for meaningful connection with God, ourselves, and those we care about.
  • The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.  Mark 2:27
  • When balanced by a Sabbath rhythm, work takes its proper place as a good, but not a god.
  • When we practice Sabbath delight, we proclaim that Jesus Christ defeated every spiritual force of evil at the cross (Colossians 2:15).  We affirm that human beings have infinite value and worth apart from their productivity, and that God’s love is the most important reality in the universe.
  • Play is important because it is an indicator that we really do believe life is more than work.  It balances our tendency to be too serious and too focused on results.  When we are playing, we accomplish no pragmatic purpose.
  • We define success as radically doing God’s will.
  • We create a space for heart preparation.
  • I practice statio…I take a few minutes alone for silence between meetings.  Knowing that God can speak to me through my body, I begin by paying attention to whether or not my body feels tense or anxious.
  • We look for God in our limits.
  • Limits are often simply God’s gifts in disguise.
  • Who or what are your decision-making canaries—those small indications that something may not be right?  How do you identify within yourself when you are making decisions or plans that are not from God?  And who are people God has placed in your life who love you enough to tell you when the danger level is rising and you may be at risk of an explosive event in your planning and decision making?
  • Creating an emotionally healthy culture and team is one of the most powerful opportunities we have to impact people’s lives and our long-term mission.
  • Work performance and personal spiritual formation are inseparable.
  • The elephants in the room are acknowledged and confronted.
  • Time and energy are invested in the teams’s personal spiritual development.
  • The quality of people’s marriages and singleness is foundational.
  • Minimally transformed leaders will always result in minimally transferred teams doing minimally transformed ministry.
  • Jesus taught and led the masses, but he invested himself in a core team of twelve who, in turn, shaped the culture of the emerging church.
  • FACE YOUR SHADOW:  How am I growing in my awareness of my shadow so that it does not adversely affect the culture I am seeking to build with my team?  When a recent situation with my team triggered an old automatic response, what might have calmed me down to respond in a more mature, thoughtful way?  Who are the people with whom I am in relationship who can serve as mirror for the blind spots and vulnerabilities?
  • LEAD OUT OF YOUR MARRIAGE OR SINGLENESS:  How well am I taking into account and nurturing my marriage or singleness as a model for building a healthy team and culture?  What, specifically, am I doing to set a boundary between the demands of developing a healthy culture and my marriage/singleness?  If married: What would my spouse say is the greatest challenge to our marriage?  If single: What would my closest friends says is the greatest challenge to my singleness?  What would I say?
  • SLOW DOWN FOR LOVING UNION:  To what degree does my “being with Jesus” sustain my “doing for Jesus” in this challenging work of culture and team building?  A little, a lot, not at all?  What are the spiritual practices most helpful to me right now to help me slow down?  What resources am I drawing from to grow in my personal relationship with Jesus that I can also bring to my team?  What adjustments might God be inviting me to make so I can slow down, and help my team slow down, for loving union with him?
  • PRACTICE SABBATH DELIGHT:  How am I practicing my work-Sabbath rhythm in ways that model what we are seeking to build with other people?  What do I find most replenishing and delightful during Sabbath, and how can that add value to our team?  What is the greatest challenge I have overcome to enter true Sabbath delight, and how is that similar to struggles others on my team experience?  How can I build more play into my life to balance my work, and how can I help each member of my team to do the same?
  • We stand with people in their most vulnerable moments—as they face deaths, transitions, tragedies, and crises of faith.  Each time we are entrusted with one of these moments, it adds to our power.
  • We must learn what it means to use our power and then how to establish wise and healthy boundaries in our relationships with others.
  • I watch to see if I am still grateful for the privilege to represent Jesus and have a level of influence in the lives of other people.  Perhaps the best test I know for alerting me that I have strayed from a healthy use of power is when I resent people treating me like the servant I claim to be.
  • Managing power and establishing wise boundaries are among the most challenging tasks of leadership.
  • Build in checks and balances with those you trust and seek wise mentors.

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