The Binds of Leadership: A Conversation with Rachael Clinton

This week on The Allender Center Podcast, Dan Allender is joined by his friend and colleague Rachael Clinton to talk about the common binds faced by pastors and other Christian leaders, who are often expected to live without any complexities or flaws. Rachael is a pastor, teacher, therapeutic practitioner, and member of the Allender Center Teaching Staff. She also works as the Assistant Director of Admissions for Theology Programs for The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, where she graduated with a Master of Divinity.

We create the necessity for our leaders to be superheroes, and yet no one can bear that for very long.

Rachael, a prior guest on the podcast, shares from her own experiences with pastoral leadership, burnout, and the long journey of restoration as she and Dan discuss the loneliness and isolation felt by leaders who feel as if there is no one they can be honest with about their struggles, questions, and imperfections.

Dan talks about how the human body reacts to prolonged seasons of stress and exhaustion, leaving leaders exposed to over-indulgence, devastating burnout, compounded isolation. “All that leads to leaders having no access,” says Dan. “They’re in a cul-de-sac of their own heartbreak and complexity, with no way to straighten the wheel to get out.”

Dan: “I love your phrase, and in some ways I think it’s the most important phrase of the whole podcast: human-sized. I can’t be God-sized, and I can’t get so small that you can just batter me about in a way in which you use me for whatever purposes exist in this organization.”

Rachael recalls her time of leadership formation at The Seattle School, when she was heading into her MDiv internship and told her supervising pastor right away about some of her personal brokenness and her insistence that she be allowed to be a broken and complex human being. The pastor responded not by telling Rachael there was no room for brokenness, nor by promoting an “anything goes” mentality, but by inviting Rachael to be human, to engage in conversation and honest presence as a human-sized leader.

“Now I’m willing to step into the terror of what will this require of me, what will this cost, because I feel like I have more volition, more structures of care in my life, more self-awareness around where I am gifted and called and glorious and beautiful, and the places where there is still a lot of complexity and woundedness,” says Rachael.“And I can’t help but want to offer hope to other leaders, to say there can be a different way.”

On next week’s episode, Dan and Rachael will continue this conversation by reflecting on what it is about us, both as individuals and as communities, that leads us to create such impossible binds for our leaders.