The Journey of Everyday Leadership


April 2017

Friday Quote

“Christian spirituality, without an integration of emotional health, can be deadly – to yourself, your relationship with God, and the people around you.”

Peter Scazzero – Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (2006, p. 7)

Ask yourself today whether there is anyone who has been injured by emotionally unhealthy expressions in the past. How might you make amends?

Emotionally Healthy Leaders

This is part 3 of 4 in a Leadership & Brokenness “mini-series”.

Recall that there are 3 potential steps with which leaders can address/prevent burnout: acknowledging brokenness, managing emotions and creating rhythms of Sabbath.

I, like many leaders, struggle with managing emotions. Particularly, I subscribe to the “Stuffer’s Society,” an elite association of leaders who tend to ignore emotions, stuff them down, and later experience unexpected eruptions.

Around 2005-06, I was involved in a major change initiative at our university. The proposal spanned across departments and disciplines. A group of key stakeholders expressed significant displeasure. Although I wasn’t the chief initiator, I emerged as the scapegoat.

After a particularly heated meeting, my supervisor asked me how I felt and my volcano exploded, spewing ash and lava all over! Younger in my career, I hadn’t learned how to manage my emotions appropriately. Luckily, my boss was gracious, we eluded major collateral damage, and the initiative moved forward.

Leaders tend to have high IQ, but many need to increase their EQ (emotional intelligence).

EQ involves four primary dimensions:

  • Self-Awareness – knowing your strengths/weaknesses and how others perceive you
  • Mood Management – managing moods in stressful situations
  • Self-Motivation – positive personal motivation towards healthy productivity
  • Interpersonal Expertise – responding effectively to others’ emotions and reactions

Leaders need not attempt to avoid emotions, but find appropriate ways to express them. Consider these practical suggestions from our experience and scholarship:

Develop meaningful friendships outside your workplace. Seek places to “talk shop” without risking fallback from within your organization. Your spouse/best friend may not be able to handle all your frustration.

Use caution when sharing heated emotions within your organization. You’ll need a few safe people, but choose them carefully, and when in doubt – sleep on it before sharing!

Welcome self-awareness initiatives. I used to fear 360 evaluations, end-of-year reviews, etc. Now, I seek them out for the sake of growth.

Seek professional help! I am a big fan of professional counseling, spiritual direction, coaching, etc. Seek help for personal dysfunctions and roadblocks that merit specialized expertise.

What step can you take today to pursue emotionally healthy leadership?

Daniel Gluck serves as Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Jessup, and Lead Faculty for the B.A. in Christian Leadership program.

Friday Quote

“When leaders drive emotions positively (with hope and encouragement), they bring out everyone’s best. We call this effect resonance. When they drive emotions negatively (with criticism, fear, or stress), leaders spawn dissonance, undermining the emotional foundations that let people shine.” (Daniel Goleman, Primal Leadership, 2002: 6-7)

Are we building resonance or dissonance in our families, churches, and work-places this week? Think of your kids, your congregation, and your co-workers. The whip does not win.

Beyond Words and Actions

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

Leadership analysts often discuss the importance of relationships in leadership. Some write about EQ (Emotional Quotient), while others talk about building trust. How we treat people matters in virtually every long-term successful leadership environment.

feelingsPerhaps that’s why Angelou’s quote (above) resonates so deeply with me.

I’m part of a generation that likes to set the rules, live by the rules, and expects everyone to do the same. We do that with our parenting and with our workplaces. We like policies and procedures and see the mission (of the church or the business) as paramount. Our mentors taught us to use our words carefully and to choose our actions strategically. Everything — even raising children — comes down to saying and doing “the right thing.”

But if Angelou is correct, I’ve been missing a significant piece of the puzzle. How do I make people feel? If they feel devalued, unimportant, second-rate, disrespected, or unloved, will this not trump all else?

Leaders with high emotional awareness (both self-awareness and other-awareness) know that feelings matter.

I recently read that “people join organizations but leave managers.” It’s true. We may love the mission of the organization (church, parachurch, or other), but if the leaders demean or diminish us, we’ll leave. We’ve all had those seasons when a boss spoke over the top of us, refused to listen, or (worse) belittled us in front of others. Those feelings almost inevitably spill over into conversations with co-workers, or long ruminations within our own minds.

The “mission” gets forgotten and loyalty falters, when we feel marginalized.

Most of us can readily identify with Angelou’s insight. We rarely remember (for very long) what others do or say in the course of a day. But we may remember for a lifetime how they made us feel.

How do you make people feel, in your marriage, family, church, or business?

Are you building lives and legacies, or something far less significant?


Friday Quote

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

-Henry Nouwen

Leadership of this kind is harder than it appears. Sometimes we must unlearn our tendencies to offer answers. Sitting and being requires a holy stillness. Can you think of anyone in your area of influence who needs you this way?

Canoeing the Mountains

Sargeant John Ordway, a key member of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, had little to say. The mountains towering before them were totally unexpected and daunting.

According to Tod Bolsinger (Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Waters), Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had to move beyond their past experience. Nothing had prepared them for this kind of adventure. The quest for a North West water passage to the Pacific Ocean would not materialize—ever.

They had brought their dependable canoes, but canoes were worthless for charting the Rocky Mountains to the West.

Bolsinger uses the Lewis and Clark expedition as a metaphor for Christian Leadership today. He continues, “In every field, in every business, in every organization, leaders are rapidly coming to the awareness that the world in front of us is radically different from everything behind us.” This has serious implications for anyone seeking to embrace the mission of God in the world.

Leadership into the future will require the church to adapt and venture into the unknown. This can get complicated, especially if our methods are inseparable from our message.

Bolsinger poses a way forward.

First, as Christians, we must “reframe this moment in history. God has put before us adventure, hope, and discovery.” At the same time, we must embrace the anxiety and fear of potential loss that comes from the call toward the future. It’s not easy. Many of us have settled for familiar maps and tools.

Next, we must affirm our call to be a church on mission in the world. As Hebrew Scripture scholar Christopher Wright proposed, instead of saying “God has a mission for the church today,” we must embrace that “God has a church for His mission in the world.” Church, are we ready?

Last, Bolsinger says we must discover an adaptive stance to transformation. We change from the inside out, and this may be the hardest truth of all to embrace.

Every encounter, every book, every contemplative moment is building our change capacity to move effectively into the future.

Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What tools must I leave behind as I lead myself and those around me?”

As God’s ambassador, a pleasant canoe ride to a beautiful land is unlikely. Stay alert, even today, for the prodding of God as he leads you still further into the uncharted future. Stay nimble, light, and always teachable.

And, you might want to brush up on your mountain climbing skills.



Dennis Nichols serves as Lead Faculty for the Master of Arts in Leadership program at William Jessup University.

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