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.