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The Significance of EQ for Leaders


The Significance of EQ and Leadership Effectiveness

A group of elders asked a woman battling a chronic disease for many years how she was handling her illness.  She tearfully shared her traumatic and prolonged journey. One leader interrupted her and proceeded to tell about a medical condition that he had experienced many years earlier. The group stared at him in shocked disbelief as he unwittingly hijacked the conversation and redirected it away from her and toward himself. He never acknowledged this woman’s emotional pain and openness in sharing it. He is a competent and caring man, but it’s unlikely he will be useful to the degree he could be unless he learns to exercise some emotional intelligence. Leaders who are unable to empathetically join in another person’s story—good or bad—will not influence at the deepest level. 

Improving Your EQ

Church leaders often lack an outlet to share their painful experiences. You will experience greater overall health when you can navigate your spiritual and emotional journey with others. Church leaders need a safe place to share their struggles. Those who have a coach, mentor, or friend with whom they can express their feelings will be holistically healthier. President Teddy Roosevelt said in 1917, in all places, The Ladies’ Home Journal, “Unless a man is master of his soul, all other kinds of mastery amount to little.[2]

Sometimes highly educated leaders are perplexed as to why they do not experience the level of success they would like to see. They seem to lack the “right stuff” necessary for the outcomes they desire because of a relatively low EQ, not because of a low IQ or lack of experience. Influential leaders all have emotional intelligence (EQ). Knowledge (IQ) and technical skills are entry-level requirements. Emotional intelligence could be the missing ingredient of a successful leader. EQ is arguably twice as important as IQ and technical skills.[3]  The exception to this is a person with highly technical skills like a brain surgeon.

Google revealed a shocking fact about its employees when it tested its hiring hypothesis since the company’s incorporation in 1998.[4] It analyzed every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data through Project Oxygen. It shocked everyone. STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—expertise came in dead last as the most important qualities of Google’s top employees.  The six characteristics of success at Google, according to this research, are all soft skills:

  1. Coaching
  2. Communicating and listening well
  3. Possessing insights into others (including other different values and points of view)
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues
  5. Being an excellent critical thinker and problem solver
  6. Being able to make connections across complex ideas.[5]

Church leaders must start with the gospel, but cannot neglect emotional intelligence because it makes the gospel proclamation and ministry to others even stronger. Below are the four aspects of emotional intelligence as it relates to the Bible. 


For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (Romans 12:3).


To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)


For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).


I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-3).

What aspect do you need to focus on in this next season of ministry? 


[1] HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2015), p. 1.

[2] H. Paul Jeffers, The Bully Pulpit: A Teddy Roosevelt Book of Quotations (Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2002), p. 22. Teddy Roosevelt, quoted in Ladies’ Home Journal, January 1917

[3] Daniel Goleman, What Makes a Leader? (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 2017), p. 7. 

[4] Cathy N. Davidson, founding director of the Futures Initiative and a professor in the doctoral program in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of the book, The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux (Basic Books, 2017)


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