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October 5, 2010

Dare to Lead from Healing

Many leaders believe that to lead well they have to superimpose winning strategies upon themselves. In reality, great leadership flows from a healed heart. The best thing you can do for your “followers” (whether that be in work, friendships or family) is to run after personal healing.

Cheryl learned this difficult lesson when she worked for a ministry leader who appeared to be the hallmark of good leadership. At first everything he said matched Scripture, perfectly so. He had a verse for everything, and he demanded excellence from her. But as Cheryl watched his life and saw how his actions didn’t meet up to his well-scripted words, she grew confused.

As his story of past abuse leaked out, Cheryl realized he hadn’t truly dealt with his haunted childhood, and those very ghosts he’d run from became his issues in the present. Cheryl had to help this leader see his need for healing, and she watched his painful devastation surface as he left the ministry. His departure hurt him, yes, but it also made Cheryl deeply confused in the process and disillusioned in the end.

So how can we avoid something like that—both for ourselves and the people we work with? Why is it important to deal with our past? Aren’t we all messes anyway? And, what does our messiness have to do with how we lead today?


Our healed hearts ensure that we will love our co-workers well, without needing them to fill our own unmet needs, without subconsciously desiring to control people for the sake of our own need for control.

Look at this list of traits of healed leaders versus unhealed leaders:

Healed Leaders: Accept blame and apologize
Unhealed Leaders: Blame others

Healed Leaders: Ask questions to clarify
Unhealed Leaders: Assume negative intent

Healed Leaders: WYSIWYG
Unhealed Leaders: Hide things to protect reputation

Healed Leaders: Demonstrate empathy
Unhealed Leaders: Criticize first

Healed Leaders: Realize their need for team
Unhealed Leaders: Are fiercely independent

Healed Leaders: Give up power, control
Unhealed Leaders: Must maintain control

Healed Leaders: Serve others freely
Unhealed Leaders: Demand to be served

Healed Leaders: Love for others to have success
Unhealed Leaders: Must be recognized, praised

Healed Leaders: Easy to approach
Unhealed Leaders: Guarded

Healed Leaders: Value personal authenticity
Unhealed Leaders: Value having respect

Unfortunately, the world says good leadership is full of power and control. Ability and strength. Capability. Yet God’s paradoxical view of leadership uses other adjectives: foolish, powerless, despised—precisely the words that describe those of us who need healing. I find it comforting that God sees the latter traits as ones he works through (and heals). Consider this:

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NLT).

While we may see our past and the wounds from that time as detriments, Jesus sees them as places he can work through. And as we run to Jesus for healing, he makes us into approachable, fair, authentic leaders who lead our teams with empathy and grace. After all, we know our lack, so we grant grace to others who stumble too.

One of the most helpful verses in my healing journey is Isaiah 43:18-19: “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (NASB).

For those leaders who struggle with the past and long for healing, these verses offer hope. God is on the move, doing something brand-spanking new in our midst (if we welcome his dealings). He is in the business of building pathways through the brambles of our lives, and watering our dry places. As he does that, he gives us the uncanny ability to want the same for others, to lead them beside still waters—just like good shepherds do.

To shepherd the people he’s given us, we must go to him, the Good Shepherd, and give him full access to our lives, letting him heal at will. As we do, we may not look like “winning leaders,” bright and shiny and full of ourselves, but we’ll bless our followers with authentic, Jesusy leadership.

So dare to chase healing. For your sake. For your family’s sake. For the sake of those you work with. The healing he brings will spill over like rivers on desert banks to the people you lead.


Fantastic post! Fantastic resource! I'm printing out this list and showing my husband! We have been in ministry for 10 years, and we devote a lot of time to personal therapy, marriage counseling, and "healing" so ministry becomes authentic, vibrant, and an true overflow of a healed heart. Thank you. You are right on.

Mary, this is a fabulous post. I will re-read it several times to fully absorb the message. You reminded me of a statement in the book Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner "Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.” And with the heart we heal. Blessings, James.

Thanks for working so hard on healing in your ministry, LiveWithFlair. That's so encouraging to hear.

James, thanks so much for your kind comments and that quote. So true.

Such a powerful message as always Mary! Thank you for giving so freely with your words and your heart.

I hope this post is read by many leaders in all areas of life especially in the body of Christ. When leaders are wounded and hurt, I have seen that they tend to wound and hurt those they lead and it is devastating.

Thanks so much, Eyvonne!

Jeannette, thanks. I have seen that too. It's just not good. Leaders should heal for the sake of those they lead...

As always, your writing is right on. You honestly, directly, yet with mercy and grace call us on our sin and encourages us to heal, to repent and to be transparent. This post, I am printing out to take to our small group as we are dealing with these issues exactly right now..
Thank you for equipping me to better express what I have been feeling.

Great post! I have noticed for years that many leaders have not dealt with their own need for healing. When a leader serves out of their brokenness it is often to have their own needs met rather than to truly minister to others. I wish every leader would read this post and allow the Lord to take them on the journey toward wholeness! Blessing. Dottie

Christina, it blesses me that you'll use that in your small group. I pray it had impact.

Dottie, Oh that is so true. Great insight.

Thank you for this great article. I am not a leader in the conventional sense but I feel that in many ways those of us who call ourselves christians, are leaders, and must live by example.
I am going through a difficult time at present and your list of the traits of leaders, has me rethinking my own sense of humility and being willing to take the first step in forgiveness, to stop being critical of others. It made me take a first step in a very difficult relationship. Thank you for helping me see the truth. By the way, Im in Zambia, which is southern africa. Gods language has no boundaries and can be understood by all!

Excellent is all that needs to be said! I'm sharing this post and hoping that it is just the thing to nudge leaders where I worship to get on board, especially since our motto is "the wounded are wanted here, and the wounded are healed here"

Yes indeed...great post. My favorite line: "And as we run to Jesus for healing, he makes us into approachable, fair, authentic leaders who lead our teams with empathy and grace. After all, we know our lack, so we grant grace to others who stumble too."

Thanks for sharing it Mary. Blessings to you!

"To shepherd the people he’s given us, we must go to him, the Good Shepherd, and give him full access to our lives, letting him heal at will."

The last part of the sentence about being healed "at will" is so important. So many times, people think they have to be perfect and totally whole before they even enter leadership. But who of us truly matches that description? Yes, the most obvious baggage should be dealt with. But like onions, there are so many layers to our personalities and characters that some hurts and deficiencies will only surface IN THE MIDST of leadership. Thus, it's important as a leader to allow God to heal AS YOU LEAD. It's painful to be confronted with your weaknesses, but in God's hands, those weaknesses can lead you to places of wholeness and great leadership, if you allow it rather than stubbornly persisting in your hurts.

I am so blessed to have came across this..thank you lord for this healing process.

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