As a leadership coach and spiritual director, I have had the privilege of coaching and directing national and international leaders. Reflecting on the hundreds of conversations, I’ve identified what I believe is the primary obstacle that keeps leaders from fulfilling their God-given potential and purpose — they fail to see the link between emotional maturity and health and spiritual maturity and effectiveness. As coaches, we can help.
First, by educating ourselves about the link between emotional health and spiritual maturity. Second, by modeling emotional health and maturity to our clients by practicing good self-care and emotional wellness.

Healthy Leaders, Healthy Churches

Emotionally healthy leaders create emotionally healthy churches. And the inverse is true as well — leaders that fail to deal with their baggage and brokenness will inevitably leave a trail of damaged hearts and souls behind them.
Fortunately, there are many resources available today to help. Two of my favorites are books written by pastor and author Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I use the insights gleaned from these books daily as I work with leaders to create awareness, design actions, and set goals.
We will cover six principles, gleaned from Scazzero’s books, that you can apply to coaching leaders. Here are the first three:

Principle 1: Look Beneath the Surface

As coaches, we work to create awareness in the client by asking powerful questions. And one of the most powerful questions I’ve found is simply to ask “why?” By asking “why” questions, along with other powerful questions, we can help leaders go beneath the surface of their lives and expose unhealthy patterns of coping. For example:

  • Why do you think you procrastinate?
  • Why does it bother you so much that the woman at your workshop complained?
  • Why are you putting off making that phone call?
  • Why is this conflict difficult for you? 

Principle 2: Break the Power of the Past

Healthy leaders understand how their past impacts their ability to lead. Numerous forces shape us and make us the people we are today but none more than our family of origin. Even if you were raised in a family that was healthier than most, you still have baggage to deal with. We live in a fallen world, and every family is damaged — no matter how loving or “Christian” they are.
For example, one leader I know struggles with conflict. Because issues were never talked about openly in her family or origin, she never learned how to disagree in ways that are healthy. Her pattern was one of running away from the issue instead of addressing it, even if it meant ending a relationship.
A coach working with a leader like this can use direct communication to create awareness and design actions that help move the client toward managing conflict biblically. And recommending helpful resources are almost always welcomed.

Principle 3: Live in Brokenness and Vulnerability

Healthy leaders live in brokenness and vulnerability, sharing their weaknesses and challenges with others. Consider the Apostle Paul, who lived with a “thorn in the flesh” that “tormented” him. Yet, he learned that God’s power was made perfect in his weakness. Paul’s weakness became a platform for God’s glory.
However, it is simply foolish for leaders to share their weaknesses and vulnerabilities with the wrong people or to share more than they should. To help leaders discern how to share their weaknesses and with whom, I often ask them, “Who has God called to walk alongside you as you lead?” “Who will you share this with?” Or, “Who has proven themselves faithful in your life, always desiring God’s best for you?”
I have worked with leaders who have struggled with addictions and mental illness. Yet, in every case, these leaders have shared their brokenness with carefully chosen people and sought the help and support they needed to heal. Many have gone on to support others, struggling in similar areas.
I’ve seen significant transformation in the lives of the leaders I’ve worked with as I’ve applied these principles during the coaching conversation. Try it for yourself.
These are just three of the six principles detailed in Peter Scazzero’s books. Check back next week for part two of this series, in which we’ll address how to coach leaders around receiving the gift of limits, embracing grieving and loss, and making incarnation their model for loving well.
How have you coached leaders toward emotionally healthy spirituality?

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