What Does Leadership Demand Emotionally?

If you’ve ever had a boss that you enjoyed working long, hard hours for, what made them worth working that hard for? After posting that question on Facebook, I got a barrage of comments. Generalized, they were: “They noticed me. My work, my contribution, my hours. There was genuine appreciation. And it was stated over and over that they felt their boss was “in the trenches with me.” That means at an emotional level as well.

Healthy leaders often subjugate their own needs to the service and needs of their people in order to accomplish a higher mission. Remember King David in the Bible?—David’s family is a case study in dysfunction. Following a coup staged by his son Absalom, David prevailed in a subsequent backlash and war. But though David asked his military general to capture Absalom alive, his general was so angry that Absalomhad created such havoc and loss of lives that he killed Absalom himself. David’s army won at a high, exhausting cost.

When news of the victory got back to King David, he was only concerned for his son and wept, “My son, my son. If only I had died instead of you!”

How emotionally debilitating that would have been for the national psyche of Israel and the returning vets. What should have been celebrated as a victory from being ruled by the self-consumed, narcissistic Absalom, King David was instead overwhelmed with grief and lost his “leadership objectivity”. It reads that “for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning…”

But his general risked everything to tell David bluntly that he had humiliated the men who had saved David and his family, stating:

You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall.” . . . So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him… (2 Samuel 19:5-8a)

They needed to be, they wanted to be, encouraged and inspired by their leader. Noticed. They needed to know that their sacrifice was recognized by him…and that he was still passionate for the kingdom, their kingdom. They needed his emotional leadership.

Leaders have personal needs and organizational demands that must be reconciled on a regular basis, and both must be dealt with appropriately. But passion—that inner suffering for something—has to be about more than our personal needs and wants. If you don’t have a passion for a mission that’s bigger than yourself, I can almost guarantee that when life slams you with something that seems overwhelming, you will be overwhelmed.

~Dave Workman | Elemental Churches

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