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.