The Leader and Emotion: Gratitude

Emotions are often spontaneous and unplanned reactions to the circumstances of life. David seems to have experienced them all.

David also experienced gratitude, an emotion that can be chosen and cultivated by all leaders.  Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).

This Psalm is filled with thanksgiving and praise. David is clearly filled with gratitude and invites all of us to join him in being grateful leaders.

Gratitude should be recognized. David identifies his gratitude and chooses to focus his attention on this emotion. David recognizes God’s goodness in His creation and His faithfulness that “continues through all generations.” David is filled with gratitude and calls everyone who listens to be grateful.

While there is always much for which we can be grateful, many leaders choose instead to focus on the struggles and obstacles of their journey. They may focus on the pain of betrayal or the emotion of fear. Or they focus on their ‘to do list’ which seems much longer than the ‘done list.’ So they choose frustration instead of thanksgiving. David chooses to come to God with gratitude. He recognizes that no matter what the circumstances, he can see things for which he is grateful.

Servant leaders learn to recognize the power of gratitude in their leadership and choose to focus on things for which they are thankful. They recognize that those who lead with gratitude are a joy to follow!

Gratitude should be revealed. Like all his emotions, David does not keep gratitude a secret from himself or others. He cries out, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.” David reveals his gratitude to anyone who will listen! He reveals the reasons he is grateful to the God who made him and the entire universe.

Leaders sometimes think of things for which they are grateful but fail to reveal their gratitude. But servant leaders serve those they lead by expressing gratitude openly. They may write it, say it, or sing it but they always find a way to reveal their gratitude to those around them. They tell their spouse how much they are blessed by their presence. They write a note of appreciation to someone on the team who has done a good job. They publically thank the person who serves even in menial tasks. They are grateful for the contributions of each of their team members and express their thanks openly.

Gratitude should be restrained. We have looked at many emotions that can hinder our leadership when they are not properly restrained. We are called to lead with emotion but not be led by emotions and servant leaders learn the proper balance. But it’s hard to imagine a leader being too grateful!

Perhaps some leaders focus so much on the positive that they are unable to address issues that need attention. Servant leaders do not allow gratitude to keep them from corrections that need to be made. But for more leaders, the danger is in leading without gratitude!

Servant leaders in this situation learn to cultivate and develop the emotion of gratitude. They refuse to allow their leadership to be defined by ingratitude no matter how difficult the challenges they are facing. Like David, they lead their emotions to a place of gratitude! And they serve those around them who are ungrateful with a gentle call to follow them to experience the emotion of gratitude.

Choose today to lead with an attitude of gratitude.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Find a blank piece of paper and list everything that comes to your mind for which you are grateful. Turn the list into a prayer of thanks to God. Then reflect on what this does to your soul and record your learnings here.
  • To whom should I express gratitude today? What is the best way to express my gratitude to this person or persons? (Verbally, in writing, publically or privately, etc.)
  • What steps is God inviting me to take to develop more deeply a grateful heart? (Be specific and then share your list with a trusted friend for accountability.)

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

The Leader and Emotion: Betrayal

Betrayal is a common experience in leadership which stirs up many emotions. Betrayal happens when a person close to us violates our trust. Betrayal itself is an action, not an emotion. But it often catches a leader by surprise and results in many different emotions such as anger, hurt, bewilderment, etc.

A church member may suddenly leave, taking some of your members to begin a new church. A business partner may take some of your customers and begin a rival business. A spouse may unexpectedly walk away from a marriage relationship. A close friend may reveal to someone else a private matter you shared in confidence. You find out that someone close to you has been lying. The pain from these kinds of betrayal feels like someone stabbed us in the back so ‘backstabbing’ is another word we use for betrayal.

David, like many leaders, experienced betrayal by a friend. We can examine only a portion of what he expressed in Psalm 55, 12 “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. 13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers. 15 Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the realm of the dead, for evil finds lodging among them. 16 As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. 17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. 18 He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me” (Psalm 55:12-18).

David’s experience shows all servant leaders how to deal with the inevitable times of betrayal.

Betrayal should be recognized. David pours out his heart to God and says that if the insults had come from an enemy he could have hidden it. But “…it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.” David recognized the emotions which were stirred up by this betrayal. He was angry, fearful, and he wanted revenge.

Many leaders who experience betrayal know they are in pain but don’t stop to identify what they are feeling. But David helps servant leaders to recognize betrayal and to name the emotions that come with the pain.

Betrayal should be revealed. David didn’t pretend that he was not in pain, he revealed his emotion first to God and now to all of us. He says, 16 “As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. 17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” By writing these words, David revealed the pain of his betrayal and was able to process his reaction with God.

Too many leaders seek to bury the pain of betrayal by working harder or preaching louder. Or they reveal their pain in an angry outburst of harsh words which they later regret. Servant leaders, like David, expose the pain of their betrayal to God and ask Him for grace to walk through it.

Betrayal should be restrained. The way we respond to betrayal shapes our leadership. David declares at the end of this passage, 18 “He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.” He realized that God “rescues me unharmed” and called him to continue in his role as a leader. David learned to forgive and release the pain so that he could continue leading well.

Servant leaders learn from David to restrain betrayal so that it does not keep them from leading like Jesus. With God’s grace they allow the pain of betrayal to make them better instead of bitter.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read all of Psalm 55. What more does this teach me about betrayal?
  • Identify a time in the past when you experienced betrayal and then reflect on that experience by answering the following questions:
    • What was the situation in which I was betrayed?
    • What emotions did it stir in me?
    • Was I aware, at that time, of these emotions?
    • Did I appropriately reveal my emotions?
    • How did I respond to the person(s) who betrayed me and how did that impact my leadership?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.

The Leader and Emotion: Loneliness

With our entire world connected by social media it seems that none of us should be lonely. But the United Kingdom recently appointed a “minister of loneliness” to deal with the increased social and health issues associated with this emotion.

Loneliness is not a new emotion; it was keenly felt by David when he said to God, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16).

In another Psalm he pours out his heart, feeling all alone and forsaken even by God. 1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises… 10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help… 19 But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. 22 I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you” (Psalm 22:1-3, 10-11, 19-22).

Leaders experience loneliness like everyone else. In addition, leaders often face an increased loneliness that comes from their leadership position. Although leaders work closely with people, they often face leadership challenges of which followers are not even aware. A business leader may wrestle alone with a financial decision that will impact the lives of many people. A pastor carries alone the weight of a church member in a personal crisis.

As a leader David also experienced loneliness and helps servant leaders understand how to lead with loneliness.

Loneliness should be recognized. David cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He recognizes that he is feeling abandoned by God. He felt all alone. Loneliness may also produce other emotions such as depression or sorrow, but David properly recognized that his primary feeling was abandonment or loneliness.

When loneliness is not identified, the pain is still keenly felt. Leaders are tempted to temporarily relieve the pain by overeating, indulgence in sexual fantasies or other illegitimate pleasures, addictive behaviors, etc. Servant leaders recognize loneliness, and this helps them guard their heart against moving in these unhealthy directions.

Loneliness should be revealed. David not only recognizes his emotion, he shares it with all of us! Leaders who seek to keep their loneliness hidden often sink further into depression or despair. Leaders who are willing to reveal their feeling of loneliness are able to adjust as needed and to take steps to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above.

Revealing loneliness also helps servant leaders seek help from God and others. David cried out to God, “Come quickly to help me.” Servant leaders learn to reveal their loneliness.

Loneliness should be restrained. David turns his focus from his own loneliness to say, “I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.” David recognized that if he focused on his loneliness, it would take him in a wrong direction as a leader. He poured out his soul to God, but then moved on to acknowledge God’s strength and ability to help. He also knew that isolation would only increase his sense of loneliness and that God created “the assembly” as a community.

Servant leaders learn to restrain their loneliness so that it does not control their ability to lead. They don’t allow loneliness to keep them from others and, like David, deliberately seek relationships with others. They actively seek God’s presence in their lives and join with others in praise to God. In community, they learn to lead even when lonely.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read all of Psalm 22 and reflect on how David experienced and expressed his loneliness. Jesus also quoted this Psalm of David when he was on the cross. How does this Psalm speak to me as a leader?
  • As a leader, what situations do I face that produce loneliness in me? What can I learn from David about how to lead with loneliness?
  • When I feel lonely, how can I express this to myself and others appropriately? What keeps me from expressing my loneliness?
  • When I feel lonely, what specific temptations do I face? In what way do these temporarily cover my pain? What are more healthy ways to respond to my loneliness?
  • Psalm 68:6 says that “God sets the lonely in families.” In what way do I find hope and connectedness with others? What do I need to do intentionally to strengthen my ‘family’ relationships?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.