Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

What is Emotional Intelligence, and Why is it Important for Leaders?

Leave a comment

We all know what intelligence is, but are you familiar with what is known as Emotional Intelligence? This is a relatively new concept, first labelled in 1964, and popularized in the 1980s. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ  by Daniel Goleman is a book that some recommend to find out more about this topic. Goleman tells us that emotional intelligence is the ability to proactively manage our own emotions (EQ-self), and to appropriately respond to the emotions of others (EQ-others). He also states that emotional intelligence is the capacity for recognizing our feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships.

I don’t recall taking any classes on emotional intelligence in the workplace, and I haven’t read any books on the topic. I had my introduction to the topic some years back when one of my mentees was in a leadership development opportunity. He was a talented young leader, but at times, his emotions got the best of him causing problems for both him and his team. After this happened again, his manager assigned him an article on emotional intelligence to read and discuss with me.
An introduction to emotional intelligence was one of the first modules we studied in our NXTGEN Pastors ministry cohort, in which a small group of seminary students are taught soft skills, facilitated by a pastor. Some of the material in this article comes from that module, developed by Chris Vogel, director of NXTGEN Pastors.
At its most basic, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand emotions in oneself and others. Having emotional intelligence is important for everyone, and especially for leaders. A leader may have the technical skills required for a particular position, an IT degree and background, for example, but if they don’t have good emotional intelligence, they will not be successful, and certainly not be a servant leader.
John Maxwell has taught that there are five qualities of emotional intelligence that most good leaders have:

  1. Self-Awareness. The ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks of self-awareness are self-confidence and self-deprecating humor.
  2. Self-Regulation. The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses, to suspend judgement and to think before acting. Hallmarks of self-regulation are trustworthiness, integrity, being comfortable with ambiguity and an openness to change.
  3. Motivation. People with this quality work for reasons that go beyond money and status. They pursue goals with energy and persistence. Hallmarks of motivation are a strong drive to achieve, and optimism even in the face of failure.
  4. Empathy. This is the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. It is a skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions.
  5. Social skills – the ability to socially be able to network, find rapport with people and find common ground. Hallmarks of social skills including being effective in leading change, being persuasive, and building and leading teams.

In our ministry cohort session, we practiced identifying emotions (anger, fear, love, happiness, surprise, sadness, etc.), based on photos of facial expressions. You could do the same with someone’s body language, or their tone of voice.
We all know people who are just not socially comfortable, who say and do the wrong thing at the wrong time. A recent example of this was when my brother was fighting for his life and on a ventilator with COVID, and a friend went out of his way to point out an error that he had found while reading my book. An example of me not having good emotional intelligence happened some years back at work. I was very excited about a new concept that a team member had heard about at a conference and wanted to implement in our department. I needed to build support of the idea with my peers. However, as feedback that was given to my leader pointed out, I just charged forward, not picking up on the fact that I didn’t have the support of my peers.
Is emotional intelligence a new concept for you? How good are you with it? Why not take an assessment, such as this short and free one from the Global Leadership Foundation? The assessment will help you to know which areas you are doing well in, and those which you might want to focus on for development.

What else would you share about emotional intelligence?

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Leave a Reply