The Emotionally Healthy Leader

Abiqua Falls, a hidden gem in Oregon, Pacific Northwest Photography. Photo by Thomas Robinson. See

I began reading a book by Peter Scazzero this past week titled The Emotionally Healthy Leader. I will participate in a cohort of ministry leaders studying this book together. The subtitle has a grand vision: How transforming your inner life will deeply transform your church, team, and the world.

Scazzero writes in chapter one of The Emotionally Healthy Leader, about the importance of slowing down, one of the contemplative spiritual disciplines found in this weekly blog, posted on May 25th. See

Scazzero asks how we can overcome the lure of superficial spirituality. “We slow down. We commit ourselves to learning from the contemplative tradition and writings of leaders through church history . . . who though different from us in some ways, have much to teach us about such things as solitude, silence, and stillness with God.” (The Emotionally Healthy Leader, 41)

I wish Scazzero provided us the reader with a clear definition of “the contemplative tradition,” and included a dozen or so of the classic contemplative spiritual disciplines for consideration. This is something I’ve sought to do in this blog post, with blog posts on such contemplative spiritual disciplines as praying the Psalms, Lectio Divina, praying the Jesus Prayer, Silence, practicing the presence of God, solitude, spiritual direction, writing and living a rule of life, fasting, slowing down, and listening to God through creation.

Scazzero provides four common ways leaders practice unhealthy leadership, including: 1) defining success as “bigger and better;” 2) believing what we do is more important than who we are; 3) settling for superficial spirituality and refusing to learn deeper, live transforming, contemplative spiritual ways of living; 4) “don’t rock the boat as long as work is getting done.”

One of the helpful tools found early in this book is a survey found on pages 34-35, called “How Healthy is Your Leadership?” Here is that survey for you to assess the health of your approach to leadership.

HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR LEADERSHIP? (The following survey was written by Peter Scazzero and posted on Peter’s blog on December 8, 2014)

“Being an emotionally unhealthy leader is not an all-or-nothing condition; it operates on a continuum that ranges from mild to severe, and may change from one season of life and ministry to the next. The following is a one of the assessments I developed for the upcoming Emotionally Healthy Leader (Zondervan, 2015) book I have been writing for the last year and a half. Use the list of statements that follow to get an idea of where you’re at right now. Next to each statement, write down the number that best describes your response.

Use the following scale: 5 = Always true of me; 4 = Frequently true of me; 3 = Occasionally true of me; 2 = Rarely true of me; 1 = Never true of me

1. I take sufficient time to experience and process difficult emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness.
2.  I am able to identify how issues from my family of origin impact my relationships and leadership—both negatively and positively.
3.  (If married): The way I spend my time and energy reflects the value that my marriage—not ministry—is my first priority as a leader.
     (If single): The way I spend my time and energy reflects the value that living out a healthy singleness—not ministry—is my first priority as a leader.
4.  (If married): I experience a direct connection between my oneness with Jesus and oneness with my spouse.
     (If single): I experience a direct connection between my oneness with Jesus and closeness with my friends and family.
5.  No matter how busy I am, I consistently practice the spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence.
6.  I regularly read Scripture and pray in order to enjoy communion with God and not just in service of ministry tasks.
7.  I practice Sabbath—a weekly twenty-four-hour period in which I stop my work, rest, and delight in God’s many gifts.
8.  I view Sabbath as a spiritual discipline that is essential for both my personal life and my leadership.
9.  I take time to practice prayerful discernment when making ministry plans and decisions.
10. I measure the success of planning and decision-making primarily in terms of discerning and doing God’s will (rather than exclusively by measures such as attendance growth, excellence in programming, or expanded impact in the world).
11. With those who report to me, I consistently devote a portion of my supervision time to help them in their inner life with God and to accomplish their ministry goals.
12. I do not avoid difficult conversations with team members about their performance or behavior.
13. I feel comfortable talking about the use of power in connection with my role and that of others.
14. I have articulated and established healthy boundaries in relationships that have overlapping roles (for example, with friends and family who are also employees or key volunteers, etc.).
15. Instead of avoiding endings and losses, I embrace them and see them as a fundamental part of the way God works.
16. I am able to prayerfully and thoughtfully let go of initiatives, volunteers, or programs when they aren’t working well, doing so with compassion and right motives.

Take a moment to briefly review your responses. What stands out most to you?

If scored mostly 4s and 5s: your leadership is more healthy than unhealthy.

If scored mostly 2s and 3s: you’ve begun the journey but have a long way to go to emotional health.

If scored mostly 1s and 2s: your leadership is more unhealthy than healthy.”