Sometimes being a leader feels like living in two different worlds as leaders must think about the future while also executing today. And then there are the emotional challenges of leadership, as being a leader often requires leading with two emotions at once. Leaders often must grieve the loss of something while also holding to hope for the future. They carry a deep burden while also being filled with joy for the opportunity. They address problems with sober-mindedness while also rejoicing that good things are happening.
As I have grieved the loss of ending one season of ministry and rejoiced in the beginning of another, I have thought a lot about the tension of leading with two emotions at once. And of the mistakes we are prone to make. Here are three common mistakes leaders make emotionally.
Mistake One: Ignoring emotion
It is not healthy to ignore an emotion because it will likely surface later without the benefit of processing and learning from it in the season. For example, if a leader buries and ignores grief—the grief can manifest in unhealthy ways. Or if a leader ignores the joy of leading because the leader worries that celebrating will take too much time away from work, the leader can easily create an unhealthy culture.
Mistake Two: Minimizing emotion
My current tension has been this: I have been tempted to minimize my excitement about my new assignment for fear of being disrespectful and dishonoring to my current team. In the same way I have been tempted to minimize the feeling of loss for fear that people will think I am not ready to go. It is hard to hold two emotions at once but minimizing them robs the leader of important moments and conversations with the team.
Mistake Three: Being ruled by emotion
Leadership is emotional. In fact, there has been a lot written on emotional intelligence—the ability to connect with others, show empathy, and effectively communicate non-verbally. While leaders are emotional people, wise leaders are not to be ruled by their emotions. Emotions can take us down dangerous paths and into unwise decision-making. The great news for the Christian is that we are able to continually submit our emotions to our Savior. We don’t have to let our emotions rule us, but we can preach the truth to our emotions. Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God.