Discovering our need for emotional health and emotional intelligence is cornerstone to a sustained leadership role.
I remember the day I discovered this well. It was an early spring morning. The air was crisp, the birds were singing, and I was in tears.
At an outdoor table, I sat with a trusted professor. He had faithfully taught me well in the classroom, but I sensed something more that I wanted from him. After class, and at the recommendation of another professor, I approached him about becoming a mentor in my life.
There was a very real sense that I had made a mess of my life, and most of those around me. I was afraid…hurt…scared. My palms were sweaty and my voice was weak.
I was broken.
His voice, deep and booming carried with it a sense of calmness and tranquility. He had long since mastered vocal inflection, a booming bass soloist and a tempered sage, he could easily command a room; yet it was also done with a gentle love.
As we sat at the table, I explained the situation I was in and the request for personal mentorship.
He agreed. On one condition: that we would start our time together by reading the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Joyously, I went out and purchased a copy and I devoured it. Eye-opening, insightful, transformative.
Despite that, I was troubled by one overwhelming factor. I was a second year masters student and this was the first time I had ever heard of emotional intelligence.
Four years of undergrad at a well-respected Christian liberal arts college, and halfway through a graduate degree and not once had an intentional conversation on emotional health come up.
I had taken dozens of classes up to that point, but one key foundational aspect had been missing: no one ever mentioned, or seemed to care about emotional health. Maybe they were assuming it would happen, or maybe they were unaware of it themselves. Either way, it was heartbreaking for me, and for dozens of others that I’ve now worked with on similar issues.
Emotional Health and Intelligence is not an a la carte menu option for our leadership development; it is a vital and necessary component for integrity.
That mentorship led me on a deeper journey to understand myself and my story better. Finally, I could process my history well and develop better overall health. Shortly after that mentorship began, I also entered into a year and a half of intensive personal counseling. Those two men did more to shape and reform the future narrative of my life than any other person I’ve interacted with. I also spent time with a professional coach, helping me outline my continued goals for sustained growth.
As long as we keep emotional health an optional element to leadership health, discipleship intensities, and personal self care we will stunt our own growth, the impact we can have on others, and extend the detrimental effects to the next generation.
I now am convinced that engaging in intentional acts of emotional health is the single best thing we can do for our own growth.
The ability to identify, process, and explain emotions is necessary. We must also develop the capacity to name what is going on inside of us, identify the source of pain, and process it in a healthy way.
There are many ways to begin entering the world of emotional intelligence: words, shapes, metaphors, and colors are just a few. I’ve used many different examples coaching others, but the goal is always the same. As leaders yes, but even more so as people created in the image of God, our ability to cultivate a healthy emotional balance is the primary danger of self-sabotaging leadership.
Those are alarming statistics: nearly 50% of hires fail in the first 18 months because they lack emotional intelligence.
Apparently I wasn’t alone in my educational limitations. It’s time to change that. It’s time to highlight the need for emotional health and develop the key skills necessary for longevity.
Are you ready?
Next week we’ll highlight ways to grow emotional health and process our emotions to cultivate longevity in leadership while leaving a healthy legacy of influence and impact.