4 Emotions That Can Take a Leader Out

Few things are as important for a leader to manage as their emotions. Here are ways to identify and manage your emotions.

As leaders, we experience the full array of human emotion on a regular basis.

How we handle our emotions can make or break our leadership.

Jesus himself experienced the full range of emotions such as; love, anger, compassion, loneliness, frustration and joy.

The powerful thing about Jesus and the expression of his emotion is that it always seemed to be perfectly appropriate and perfectly timed.

But let’s be honest; we’re not Jesus. We are to live like him, but we’ll never be him.

So, what can we do?

1. Own Your Emotions.

Don’t blame your emotions on your circumstances or other people. For example, we often think that a particular person made us angry.

It’s true that someone can push your buttons, provoke you and cause a certain emotion like anger begin to rise up in you. But you choose what you do with that.

If it were true that someone could actually “make” you angry, that would mean they control you.

The same is true with gratitude, happiness and contentment, as examples. No one can make you feel grateful, happy or content. These are emotions that you choose.

If other people were responsible for your happiness, you could only experience as much happiness as they could or would give you.

2. Lead Your Emotions.

Either you lead your emotions, or they lead you. It’s not always easy, but vitally important for a leader.

When you are under pressure, stressed, tired or feeling overwhelmed, that’s when leading your emotions is most important.

To lead your emotions is to be present with your feelings. This enables you to guide them and shape them rather than being owned or controlled by them. Let’s take positive emotions as an example.

Your work as a spiritual leader is serious work. It involves people, problems and even spiritual warfare. Over time this process will drain you.

Therefore, it’s vital that you purposely cultivate positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, love, compassion and contentment.

You can choose to laugh, play, serve and give. You can choose staff, friends and even service providers that you enjoy being around.

You can take charge and lead your emotions, rather than be governed by them.

3. Mature Your Emotions.

Maturing your emotions is the goal of owning and leading your emotions. No one wants to live like a robot or expects perfectly “contained” emotions. Your emotions are an expression of life and make you an interesting person.

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At the same time, people can’t trust a leader whose emotions are unpredictable or may erupt at any moment.

Remaining poised when the heat is on is an indication of maturity with your emotions. Emotional maturity is required to be freed up and real, and at the same time, self-controlled and even-tempered.

Prayer, wise counsel and intentional effort, combined with selfless living, are key components that help your emotions mature.


It’s true that this list of four emotions can be either positive motivators or negative paralyzers.

For example, fear can cause you to get out of the way of an oncoming car.

But in the context of leadership and this post, I’ll focus on the need to wisely learn to own, lead and mature these emotions.

1. Fear

Fear paralyzes a leader. It can prevent you from, for example, taking a risk, having a tough conversation or even being obedient to a prompt of God.

Don’t let the fear of failure, looking foolish or disappointing someone cause you to hold back on doing the right thing. For example, you may be tempted to make a decision aligned with fear rather than faith.

One of the best antidotes to fear is action. Break each fear-producing situation down to bite-sized pieces for action, and tackle it one day at a time.

Remember, God is with you.

2. Anger

Unmanaged anger is a true nemesis to even the best of leaders. One ill-timed blowup can cost you much.

Depending upon the severity of the circumstance or public nature of an outburst, it can cost you your leadership.

The good news is that for one instance, there is usually enough grace that it’s easily repaired.

But if you struggle with anger or if there is a pattern, I would encourage you to seek out a wise and experienced counselor to get underneath the anger and discover its origin.

You don’t need to remain captive to the force of unresolved issues from your past.

Freedom from anger is within reach, but you can’t beat it by yourself. Talk with a trusted friend or counselor soon.

3. Discouragement

Discouragement is one of the top tactics used by the Devil in order to take spiritual leaders out.

Discouragement is not enough to disqualify a leader like anger can, and it doesn’t completely shut down a leader like fear can, but it’s just enough to distract a leader from being at his or her best. And over the long haul, that can have huge effects.

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Discouragement often originates from a lie based on skewed perspective. For example, your church attendance may have been down last week, but you had a good number of visitors, several people saved and the offering was strong.

The enemy wants you to focus on the things that didn’t go right (the low attendance) because all the other things will encourage you, and that will motivate you to keep going!

Overcoming discouragement can most often be achieved by spending some time with a few positive-natured and trusted leaders who believe in you, see the good that is happening and are full of hope.

It’s also important that you don’t allow yourself to become or remain isolated from others. That is one of the most common ways to take your perspective off center.

4. Insecurity

Every leader has some insecurity. It can be anything from minimal and essentially negligible to nearly debilitating.

It’s up to each of us how we own, lead and mature our personal security.

Insecurity, like discouragement, is certainly not the potential grenade that anger and fear can be. But left unmanaged, insecurity can be slowly unraveling to your leadership.

In fact, insecurity is surprisingly common amongst leaders and the danger is that it can lead to things like jealousy, envy, competition, people pleasing and more.

One of the best things you can do to overcome insecurity is to own it. Talk about it, and be honest about it.

It’s important to identify what triggers your insecurities. When you’re fully aware of your personal patterns, you can begin to learn to handle them in a more healthy and productive way.

Ultimately, the best approach is to remember your identity in Christ.

Find joy and peace in being yourself. Give yourself permission and freedom to be yourself; that’s how people best connect with you and how you lead at your best.

I’ve written a more thorough article on the subject of insecurity and you can read it here.

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Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. This article was originally published on Reiland’s blog, Developing Church Leaders.