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Review: The Emotionally Healthy Leader

Book offers surprisingly good advice on setting boundaries, emotional health

I confess I did not expect to like The Emotionally Healthy Leader.” 

Having been a marriage and family therapist for the better part of two decades, I know what emotional health looks like. Second, I vehemently dislike books of tips and techniques to be a better you. Finally, I had met the author, Peter Scazzero, sometime around 1998 or 1999 when he was selling one of his earlier “emotionally healthy” books, and I did not like him. 

All this to say, my big fat pride very much informed me there was no way this could possibly be of any benefit to me. 

As I read through Scazzero’s confessional introduction, I found my pride becoming harder to justify yet difficult to lay aside. I asked that God soften my stubborn mind and open me to the lessons God had for me here. In true form, God did. I am grateful.

Although I found Scazzero a bit heavy-handed with the idea that all unhealthy patterns can be traced back to family of origin stuff (some junk can certainly be formed out of bad adult relationships,which ought also to be considered), his plans for transforming one’s life amount to far more than tips and techniques. 

Scazzero urges leaders to identify and grapple with our shadow — the thing about ourselves that haunts us, and which is our default mode of operations when we are not paying enough attention to ourselves. Leaders must work to be emotionally healthy on many levels and remain in a space of ongoing transformation.

Perhaps the most resonant part of Scazzero’s book for me was his discussion around leading out of one’s marriage or singleness. Understanding both as a vocation and nurturing both as one would a vocation is an incredibly helpful and insightful paradigm. 

In most professions, we spend significant and purposeful time on work-related tasks, networking, planning, goal-setting and long-term vision casting. Yet we do not often do that in our marriages or singleness. Rather, we see those as states we merely exist within and allow them to influence our work and leadership. 

Christine Fox Parker

Christine Fox Parker

I especially appreciated Scazzero’s inclusion of and approach to singleness, including his caveat regarding his own limitations around the subject.

In all the books I have read on leadership, few of them have addressed the issue of boundary setting. Fewer still state outright that it is the responsibility of the power-holder to set the boundaries. I appreciate Scazzero’s statement that “the responsibility to set a healthy boundary rests first with the leader, not with those he or she serves.” 

In this crisis of consent — where no always means no but yes does not always mean yes — this is an issue every leader in God’s Kingdom must be taught. When one holds power — and leaders in church hold intrinsic power over all whom they lead, whether they recognize it or believe it or see it or not — the person without the power is not in a position to say no. Therefore, they are unable to give a true yes. The responsibility for setting boundaries always rests with the leader.

CHRISTINE FOX PARKER is associate minister for the West End Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn. She is the founder of PorchSwing Ministries Inc. See more of her writings at porchswingministries.org. 

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Filed under: book review Christine Fox Parker Church of Christ Opinion Review Reviews The Emotionally Healthy Leader transforming your church transforming your life

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