The Emotionally Healthy Leader

As a pastor, you know that leadership is much more than knowing solid management techniques or creating and casting vision. First and foremost, you lead out of who you are. Who you are will manifest itself in how you lead others. The more you can know about who you are, the greater potential you have for being the kind of leader God has intended you to be as His disciple; leadership cannot be separated from discipleship, taking on the character of Christ himself. In recognition of our new partnership with Peter and Geri Scazzero and Emotionally Healthy Discipleship, this edition of Thrive in 5 is focused on five points from Peter Scazzero’s book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader. Peter points to the necessity of pastors being emotionally healthy as persons in order to lead as God intends.

  1. Face Your Shadow. Scazzero describes your shadow as “the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than-pure motives and thoughts that, largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are” (EHL, p. 55). Without facing your shadow, your leadership can harm others and sabotage your ministry for Jesus. Are you willing to allow the light of God’s Spirit to reveal your shadow? 
  2. Lead Out of Your Marriage or Singleness. Both marriage and singleness are “callings” (even if singleness is temporary, it is a time of deep commitment to Christ). Married pastoral leaders bear witness to the depth of Christ’s love: fidelity, exclusivity, intimacy. Single pastors “bear witness to the breadth of Christ’s love,” being free to express the love of Christ to a broader range of people (p. 87). You can lead powerfully out of your marriage or singleness as you reflect the reality of the presence of Christ in the world. Do you view your marriage or singleness from the perspective of leading others, as a powerful channel of God’s grace into the world?
  3. Reflect Emotionally Healthy Planning and Decision-making. Before entering meetings, consider this simple principle: “the weightier the decision, the more time is required for preparation” (p. 194). Prayer helps you discern God’s leading as opposed to your own will. Prayer is central to planning. It will help you become indifferent to anything but the will of God (p. 195). Are you willing to commit yourself to intentional periods of prayer before committing to a plan or decision?
  4. Create an Emotionally Healthy Culture and Team. Culture consists of the “unspoken rules about the way we do things around here” (p. 213). Four characteristics of a healthy culture and team are: a) recognizing that work and personal formation are inseparable; b) elephants in the room are acknowledged and confronted; c) time and energy are invested; d) the quality of people’s marriages and singleness is foundational. How would you describe the culture of your office?
  5. Engage in Healthy Uses of Power and Create Wise Boundaries. We all have positions of power in varying degrees. Some wield it in destructive ways while others shrink back from it. Power flows from our sacred positions and from who we are in the eyes of others. Healthy stewardship of power occurs when a) We become aware of and reflect deeply on the sources of our power; b) We “come under people with our power” and serve them humbly; c) We acknowledge and monitor the dual relationships of family and close friendships (pp. 239-258). Are you aware that your “power” is merely delegated to you by God?

To learn more about how to lead in emotionally healthy ways, see the following:

Peter Scazzero. (2015). The Emotionally Healthy Leader. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Website:

Jeannie Miller-Clarkson, “Pastor Jim Blows Up in a Council Meeting”
Also from Miller-Clarkson, a simple tool for using journaling for personal growth: Journal for Personal Insight


Intellectual contributor: Dave Higle 
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus  
Curator of content: Dave Higle