Leading others is emotional work.
Exceptional leaders are comfortable with their own emotions and can enter into the emotional world of others without losing themselves. They earn trust by addressing the feelings, needs, and concerns of those they lead.
Last Fall my wife and I, along with our church small group, studied the book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. In chapter 9, Pete discusses the process of maturing from an emotional infant into an emotional adult and how emotional growth often progresses independently from physical aging. If you’ve ever met someone who seems wise beyond their years—or had an experience with an adult that made you wonder if you were still in Junior High—you know what I’m talking about.
Understanding your own emotional maturity as well as that of your followers is critical. Below I’ve summarized the four levels of emotional maturity Pete lays out in the book. There’s a lot of overlap here, but as you review the list, think about where you fall in the continuum. Then think of someone who you’re having a tough time dealing with—where do you think they land?
- Look for others to take care of them
- Have great difficulty entering into the world of others
- Are driven by their need for constant gratification or affirmation
- Use others as objects to meet their needs
- unravel quickly from stress, disappointments, trials
- Interpret disagreements as personal offenses, and are easily hurt
- Complain, withdraw, manipulate, take revenge, & become sarcastic when don’t get their way
- Have great difficulty calmly discussing their needs and wants in a mature, loving way
- Are threatened and alarmed by criticism
- Keep score of what they give so they can ask for something later in return
- Deal with conflict poorly, often blaming, appeasing, pouting, or ignoring the issue entirely
- Have great difficulty truly listening to another person’s pain, disappointments, or needs
- Are able to ask for what they need, want or prefer—clearly, directly, honestly
- Recognize, manage, and take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings
- Give people room to make mistakes and not be perfect
- Appreciate people for who they are—the good, bad, and ugly—not for what they give back
- Can resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that include others.
Personally, I’m learning that other people are generally stronger than I give them credit for. I don’t need to shelter them from how I really think and feel. How about you?
What areas of emotional maturity do you need to work on? How can you help others grow emotionally?