5 Ways You Are Becoming an Unhealthy Leader

A spiritual leader is only as effective as his/her spiritual health.  And likewise, your faith reflects your ministry.  Where you are with Jesus, reflects where your ministry, as a whole, is with Jesus.  You cannot effectively pour out of you what has not been poured into you.

Without spiritual, emotional, and physical self-care, you are simply a ticking time bomb that will explode over everything you lead.

Let’s be honest, we all know leaders that this has happened to, and we for sure know high-profile leaders that this has happened to.  Maybe it has happened to you, or maybe the clock has started ticking for you.  We all know that when you’re in an airplane that loses pressure, we are told to put our own oxygen mask on first, before helping others, likewise, we have to take care of ourselves, SO THAT we can help take care and lead others effectively.

Actually, there are way too many leaders that shouldn’t be leading, based on where they are, spiritually.  We risk the effectiveness of the Gospel when we lead from an unhealthy place.  We may be teaching things that we’re not even living, or leading by an example that is far from biblical.  In John 15:4-6, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

Here are a few signs that you may be becoming an unhealthy leader…

1. You cannot turn off work.

You work hard, but maybe you work too hard.  And a sure sign that you work too hard, is that you can’t family hard.  You have nothing to give your family (or yourself).  You bring your computer home every night, and you work.  Maybe you wait until your kids go to bed, but you still work.  Every healthy leader needs to be able to turn off work on a weekly basis.  In fact, you should be able to turn off work on a daily basis as well.  One of our staff values is, Work Hard, Family Hard.  Make sure to spend time with your family daily, but also take time to recharge mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.  I take a spiritual renewal day every month, a day off to unwind every week, a 24-hour sabbath to rest every week, and I also try make sure my wife and kids get the best of me when I’m at home, and not the leftovers.  Try committing to leaving your computer at work each night! I’m willing to bet that God can still run the universe with you working only 5 days a week.

Too often we fight laziness with busyness, when in reality busyness takes away our healthiness.

2. You seek the spotlight. 

Unhealthy leaders crave the spotlight.  You want the credit, and you want the accolades.  And typically, you want those things at the cost of doing what’s best for the ministry and the church.  In fact, you may even secretly hope for other ministries or even the church to fail, to make you and your ministry look better.  

When you seek the spotlight over Jesus, you’ll get the spotlight over Jesus.

Unhealthy leaders distort the truth to make themselves look better.  But, a healthy leader leads from humility.  You give credit to others quickly.  You know that when other ministries win, the church wins, and you champion the church.  

3. You use guilt to get your way.

Unhealthy leaders place unnecessary guilt on other people in order to manipulate them.  Have you ever made a leader feel bad for missing a week?  Have you ever treated a leader poorly for quitting or stepping away from your ministry?  Have you ever given students a guilt trip for choosing another activity over youth group?  

An unhealthy leader thinks that what they do is more important than what everyone else does.

Before making others feel bad for not doing what you want them to do, seek to understand their decision, and support them.  Try to support them even if you don’t agree with them.  Healthy leaders empathize with others and seek to understand in order to love better.

4. You live and act in constant comparison. (You lead from the opinions of others.)

Insecurity is extremely strong in an unhealthy leader.  And because of that, you live in a state of constant comparison.  Is my ministry as good as theirs?  Is my ministry as big as theirs?  Am I as good of a communicator as them?  Am I liked more than them?  If so, I can feel good about myself, but if not, I feel like a failure.  Healthy leaders are secure and lead out of that security.  They are secure, because they are following the lead of the Holy Spirit and not only those around them.

5. Your time with Jesus is an after-thought.

This cannot be stated enough.  You will be an unhealthy leader if your relationship with Jesus is unhealthy. 

Too many spiritual leaders are trying to lead people somewhere they haven’t been. They preach from the Bible but rarely read it. They pray from the stage but not from the couch.

Prayer and Scripture must be a priority in order to lead healthily.  Abiding in Jesus means continually being connected to him.  As a result, the fruit you bear will be authentic, powerful, and life-changing.  Otherwise, your fruit make look okay, but in reality, it’s just plastic and only good for putting on a show.

Fill yourself with Jesus, surround yourself with those who love Jesus, and share Jesus from a healthy place!

Which one do you struggle with the most?


Published by Nick Ballard

Nick is the Formations Pastor at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, MO, which is outside of St. Louis. As Next Gen Pastor, Nick oversees all of the Kids & Student Ministry as well as the . Nick has been in full-time student ministry since 2005. Nick and Blaire have been married since 2004, and they are parents to 2 awesome girls. Nick loves the next generation, the local church, and believes that God has big plans for this generation of teenagers! Nick is an avid sports fan and ping pong enthusiast.

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