One of the more prominent examples of an emotionally unhealthy leader is found in he Old Testament leader King Saul. Saul was he first king of the nation of Israel. He was chosen by the people the be the leader of the entire lot of people. He was tall, dark, and handsome - the picture of leadership and power. The problem is that Saul wasn't comfortable in his own identity and eventually became jealous and suspicious of others in his life.
David was just a shepherd boy. He was a teenager who wasn't old enough to fight in the war sent to the frontlines by an errand for his father. He wasn't setting out to change the course of history, but as many times in life history had a different plan for him. David eventually defeats Goliath, the overgrown nemesis of the nation of Israel, and finds himself becoming a pretty popular man in the area. As a matter of fact, ladies sang songs in his honor. 1 Samuel 18.7 says, "As they danced, they sang: 'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.'" Talk about notoriety! David was the new national hero. He was the name on everyone's lips. Young Jewish boys would pretend to be David in their backyards and playgrounds. Gone were the days of everyone worshipping the power of Saul. Now David was the favorite dish on everyone's menu.
These things are good...if you are David. If you are Saul now your emotional health is being stretched to the limits. Unfortunately for Saul he could never find a way to let David into his life and ultimately his leadership and life was cut short as a result.
1 Samuel 18.9 - "And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David."
Saul was jealous. He was emotionally unhealthy. He was scared that David would forcefully take he throne and run him out of town. What he missed because of being emotionally unhealthy was that David could have been his greatest ally instead he made David his greatest enemy. His unhealthy emotions caused him to sever a relationship that could have solidified his kingdom for generations to come.
Here are 3 things to learn about emotional health from Saul's life:
1. Emotionally Unhealthy Leaders Can't Handle New Leaders Emerging Within the Group
Saul couldn't handle the rise of David. He was insecure and jealous. He was fearful of Dacid's growing popularity. I've noticed that emotionally unhealthy leaders never do well with emerging leaders. Emotionally unhealthy leaders are always suspicious and jealous of emerging leaders. They view new leaders as threats instead of assets to the group.
How do you combat this kind of insecurity?
Be comfortable in your own skin. Only you can be you. You are a valuable part of the team and no one can take that from you but you.
Expect and celebrate the Davids in your life. New leaders emerge. That's just a fact of life. Be okay welcoming new members to the team. Celebrate the fact that your organization is growing at such a pace that it requires and encourages new leaders to emerge. Refuse to let jealousy put you in a choke hold.
2. Emotionally Unhealthy Leaders Care More About Their Position Than the Mission of the Group
Saul was worried that David would replace him. That's classic positional leader thinking. Stop being obsessed with titles and position and start being intentional about fulfilling the mission of he team! Saul was upset because David defeated Goliath and received the accolades that comes along with a great military victory. Remember that Goliath was a serious problem that Saul needed to deal with. David solved the problem, but Saul couldn't handle the threat to his position as the great king. Nothing screams unhealthy emotions like a leader that is more concerned with his or her position than the mission of the group. John Maxwell in The 5 Levels of Leadership says, "The leader makes the position the position doesn't make the leader." Refuse to let the trap of positional leadership hold you in its grip!
How do you combat the positional leadership trap?
Remember why you started. Go back in your heart to the day you decided to join the team. Remember the passion you had when you first got the job. Rekindle the flame of your hunger to make a difference. Often times we can get so caught up in the everyday operations that we forget that we are actually impacting people in a positive way. Don't let the lust for a position stop you from embracing emerging leaders and growing the impact of the organization. I can promise you that if you spend the bulk of your energy leading and growing you will never lose your position no matter how many Davids arise within the group. Focus on making a difference not achieving/maintaining a position.
3. Emotionally Unhealthy Leaders Need the Validation of Others
Saul started to slip into an unhealthy frame of mind not when David defeated Goliath, but when he heard the women of the city singing songs about David. In the same way emotionally unhealthy leaders need the validation of others to make them feel satisfied in life. These are the people who are always fishing for compliments. They always need someone to tell them "good job" or "attaboy." When you lead only for the positive affirmation of the crowd you will never lead beyond the impact of your least popular decision. As a leader you will many times have to make decisions that some people in the organization will not fully agree with or like. If you have to have everyone singing your praises then you will never make the difficult decisions because you need the validation of the crowd. Don't worry about whether people like you as much as you worry about fulfilling the mission of your life.
If you constantly need people telling you "good job" or "wow, you're awesome!" chances are you will never allow David to add value to your team.
How do you combat the validation trap?
Learn to get your validation first from God and secondly from within yourself. If you aren't happy with the job you are doing then no one else will ever fill the void left by your feelings of inadequacy. Stop needing the affirmation of others and be comfortable being who God created you to be!
The subject of Emotional Health could fill up a million different blog posts and books so I will stop here for now. Spend some time searching your own heart and see how healthy you are emotionally. If you find insecurity and jealousy lurking around the corner I would encourage you to stop and focus the next few weeks of your leadership on finding wholeness. Remember you will never be able to consistent,y lead people beyond your own emotional health.