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15 Mar '13

Reflections on Emotional Intelligence

Posted by T.J. Addington in emotional intelligence (EQ)


Ministry organizations pay far too little attention to the issue of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). When we hire we look at competency and character and fit with our organization. But, we often gloss over the individual's EQ and if the EQ is not good we pay a price for neglecting this issue.


In most ministry settings the single greatest cause of conflict revolves around poor EQ causing relational issues, bad feelings, disempowerment and lack of health.

Emotional Intelligence, often labeled EQ, is the ability to understand ourselves, know what drives us, accurately see who how we are perceived by others, and know how we relate to others. EQ also measures whether we have the relational skill to work synergistically with others while being 'self defining' and allowing others to speak into our lives or work without defensiveness.

Signs of poor EQ include the inability to listen to others, personal defensiveness, unawareness of how we come across to others, lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others, inability to constructively deal with conflict, a need to control others, narcissism, and the need to have our own way.

Good EQ includes openness to the opinions of others, lack of defensiveness, awareness of who we are and how others perceive us, sensitivity to others, the ability to release others rather than control them, allow for constructive and robust dialogue, and the ability to abide by common decisions.

It is possible for someone to have great competence but to have low EQ and leave relational havoc in their wake. Don't put them on your team. In fact, if they cannot be helped to become healthy, they probably should not be an employee of your ministry because no matter how competent they are, the damage they cause relationally in and outside the organization is too high. The alternative is to put them in a spot where they will do the least damage to others.

One of the sins of ministry organizations is that under the guise of 'grace' or 'being nice' we are not honest with people who have EQ issues. We don't tell them when their style hurts others or causes relational chaos. Then having not been honest, we finally get fed up and let them go. That is not helpful nor fair.

The first step in helping people develop better EQ is to sit down with them and honestly share how the behaviors that are problematic cause problems and to suggest ways that they can modify their behavior to minimize the negative fallout. Many times in our organization we will ask people to see a psychologist when there are significant issues to try to bring change. Where change is not forthcoming we will take action to help them find another organization to work for. The alternative is to compromise the health of the team they are on and the missional effectiveness of the ministry.

Good EQ for leaders is especially important. Leaders with poor EQ often control others, micro-manage, are threatened by people who are more competent than themselves, do not foster robust dialogue and consequently are unable to develop healthy teams. The fallout on the team are issues that people don't dare discuss, mistrust, silo mentalities, frustration of team members and lack of cooperation.

Two excellent articles on Emotional Intelligence are Leadership that Gets Results, Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000, reprint number R00204 and What Makes a Leader, Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, January 2004, Reprint number R0401H