Emotional Intelligence for Everyday Leadership
by Christine A. Scheller


Two Theories; One Goal

Some leaders seem to instinctively understand people: what motivates them, what frustrates them, what inspires them. Other leaders don’t. They are blind to the emotional landscape around them. These leaders lack what is commonly known as “emotional intelligence.” EI can be defined as “the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.” The concept has a long history, but was popularized in the 1990s by psychologists Peter Salovey, John D. Mayer, and Daniel Goleman.

The director of Seattle Pacific University’s Brain Center for Applied Learning Research, John Medina, Ph.D., prefers a more scientifically verifiable concept called Theory of Mind. He describes ToM as a gadget in the brain that allows a person to do two things: 1) peer inside someone else’s psychological interiors and understand the rewards and punishment systems inside those interiors; and 2) understand that the rewards and punishments that motivate that person are not same as the rewards and punishments that motivate oneself.

Medina says that having “terrific” ToM is what people mean when they talk about emotional intelligence. “If you’ve got really good Theory of Mind, you can make a terrific manager, because you can understand your emotional landscape all around you very, very quickly. If you have very poor Theory of Mind, you’re an emotional blunt instrument. You just bang around inside people’s hearts and make them mad and make them happy and inadvertently you do both and you have no idea how you do it, because it’s random, because you don’t see anything, because you’re an emotional idiot,” he said. (Note: This kind of forthright talk typifies the Medina Grump Factor, which is how Dr. Medina and others describe his commitment to rigorous scientific methodology.)

Whatever one calls the intuitive ability to read and respond well to others, nurturing this characteristic can help leaders create and foster cohesive, productive teams. After all what leader wants to be an “emotional idiot”?
Learning to Rightly Construe Emotions

“Emotional intelligence is about rightly construing what I’m doing emotionally, as well as rightly understanding and construing what you’re doing emotionally,” said therapist and author Terry Hargrave, Ph.D.

“What happens many times, because we come from a human resource perspective, is that we always have to be focused on behavioral objectives, and that would be fine if we were all just behavioral beings, but unfortunately we’re also communal and spiritual and emotional beings also,” said Hargrave. “Our identity and safety needs play out in our everyday lives, whether that’s a work life, whether that’s a family life, or whether it’s the most intimate relationship that we have.”

He says it is “absolutely essential” for leaders to understand their own motivational needs and hot buttons because employees are “just as capable of hitting the boss’ buttons as the boss is of hitting theirs.” And leaders who feel disrespected or excluded because of employee behavior often become critical, withdrawing, over-controlling, or conflict-avoiding without ever acknowledging their feelings of having been disrespected or excluded. If they learn to assess their emotional landscape better, they can become less reactive and more proactive.

Hargrave advises leaders to be more aware of what they think other people are feeling. “Sometimes we get so connected to what we’re feeling about what they are doing that we lose track of having any empathetic or compassionate response to others,” he said.

“The secret to becoming more emotionally intelligent is to have a high degree of insight into yourself, which means you get your frontal lobe of your cerebral cortex functioning on understanding what’s happening with your emotions. In the psychological world, we call that mindfulness,” said Hargrave.

Unregulated emotions are much more powerful than cognition, he explained, but we can raise the level of our cognition to become more aware of emotions so that we can channel them in a positive direction.

The Apostle Paul talks about this concept throughout the New Testament, he said. Romans 12:2, for example, instructs us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us to take off the old self and put on the new by the renewing of the spirit of our minds.

“Neuropsychology tells us that it takes a lot of work to become aware and self-regulate yourself. If you just leave yourself to your own devices, you’re liable to be as emotionally reactive and uninsightful as ever,” he said.
A Deeper Understanding of the Golden Rule

The Rev. David Danielson, senior pastor of Impact Christian Fellowship in Kerrville, Texas, has been administering the DISC Personality Test to foster better relationships in churches and small groups since 1996. He says many organizations get big and then disappear because they treat people like commodities, whereas successful organizations create an environment in which people are valued for who they are, not just for what they can do or how they fit into the mechanisms of the organization.

He suggests starting from a place of understanding that “different is not wrong; different is just different” as a way to build relationship and trust within organizations. Eventually we may agree that not all perspectives are equally valid or useful, but thinking the best of others is a good place to start.

“It comes down to a deeper understanding of the golden rule,” he said. Treating others how we want to be treated works if they’re like us, but most people aren’t like us. In Danielson’s opinion, Jesus was teaching his disciples to “be aware enough of who you’re dealing with to discern as quickly as possible how they want to be treated: Do they need information in advance? Do they like spontaneity? Do they need their space? Are they resistant to change?”

Likewise, he says that while self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, most people don’t know who their self is, so when they try to move in self-control, they end up trying to control things other than the self.

“We have to have a better awareness of our self, what makes us tick, our strengths, our weaknesses, our likes and dislikes,” said Danielson. Because none of us lives in a bubble, we also need to be aware of how the people around us are affected by our likes and dislikes, as well as by their own likes and dislikes.

“Once you experience being esteemed and respected and cared for for who you are, valued for who you are, I think that that’s the freedom that God created us to know and to experience,” he said.



10 Things Leaders Need To Know About Effectively Leading People

by Perry Noble

#1 – A leader cannot effectively lead people that he does not love.

#2 – A leader cannot effectively lead people that he does not listen to.

#3 – A leader cannot effectively lead people that he does not always assume the best about.

#4 – A leader cannot effectively lead people that he secretly hopes that they fear him.

#5 – A leader cannot effectively lead people that he does not take the time to explain things to.

#6 – A leader cannot effectively lead people when he assumes that he is the smartest person in the room.

#7 – A leader cannot effectively lead people when his goal is to use people rather than help them.

#8 – A leader cannot effectively lead people when he secretly wishes he wasn’t a part of the organization he is leading!

#9 – A leader cannot effectively lead people when he is not dedicated to increasing his own capacity.

#10 – A leader cannot effectively lead people when he isn’t willing to be honest about his own limitations and struggles.


Sam Rainer in his excellent blog CHURCH FORWARD offers this counsel to pastors. – Steve. 

Nothing traps you in the urgency of the moment like availability. A leader that is always available never has the time to lead. He or she simply becomes an order taker for the next person who happens to stop by. Required office hours create a cage, a punch clock prison. Or the other extreme—when all your followers are your gatekeepers, there are no fences. Your life becomes a field of chaos.

I recognize the above hyperbole. But perhaps you have felt the teeth of this trap from time to time. For introverts, constant availability is exhausting. For extroverts, it is enlivening but entirely distracting. How do leaders—especially pastors—balance a desire to be there for people without falling into the trap of endless availability?

First, most people know pastors are not always available (some might believe their pastors sit in their offices, just waiting, just hoping someone will call, but I believe this group is a small minority). Most congregants sympathize with a pastor’s busy schedule. They are also busy. They understand pastors are not always available, but they do want to feel connected to their church leaders. Congregants want to feel like their leaders are accessible to them.

Allow me to make a distinction between leadership availability and leadership accessibility.

Leadership availability: Always on hand in one place. Nearby, in person.
Leadership accessibility: Easily reachable with several lines of communication.

I could spout plenty of time management principles here—steps to building better boundaries. Many leadership experts give sound advice in this area. But I want to focus on how to manage the perceptions of your followers. After all, if they feel you are there, then perception becomes reality.

The available pastor sits in an office at the church for the entire work week. The accessible pastor is reachable within the community. Available pastors are in one spot, on demand and at the command of others’ schedules. Accessible pastors have a strategy to be in many places, visible yet on their own schedule. So how do you create a culture of accessibility without spiraling into one in which you must always be available? How do you manage the perceptions of followers who—rightly—desire your time? Below are a few tips I have found beneficial in my ministry. Feel free to add your own in the comment stream.

Give out your cell phone number. Many leaders make the mistake of keeping their cell phone private. Unless you lead thousands of people (i.e. the CEO of a large corporation), then you should probably give followers your cell phone number. Get a plan with unlimited texting. Allow people to text you (and respond). It sounds scary, but it’s one of the best things I’ve done as a leader. I’m easily accessible. It gives me the opportunity to respond quickly and shortly. It keeps me connected to the younger generation. By having my cell phone, people feel like I’m always accessible. (Almost) no one abuses the privilege. And you always reserve the right to block the numbers of consistent offenders.

Don’t hide in your fortress office. If you are always in the cubicle, then people will come to expect you to be there. Introverts gravitate towards the safe box, but it’s a trap… the calm and quiet you seek is not to be found there. By always being in your office, you are inviting unnecessary noise into your world.

Be active in social media. Available leaders have limited ways in which people can contact them. Accessible leaders have multiple options for communication. Social media facilitates accessibility in two ways. First, it allows people to interact with you apart from traditional lines of communication. Followers post encouragement on your Facebook wall, and they leave messages about how a sermon helped. Second, it gives people a window into your life. Believe it or not, people are nosey. They like to know what their leaders are doing. You will prevent many questions (and quell rumors) simply by creating an online journal of your activities. Social media allows me to control—to some degree—how people perceive my actions.

Embrace your public image. Pastors are public figures. If you don’t want to live in a fishbowl and under a microscope, then don’t become a pastor. You must embrace the fact that you are a figurehead—in your church and in your community. Be visible. The more visible you are, the more you are accessible, and the less you have to be available. Even if you have to set aside 1-2 hours a week just to walk around, make sure you are interacting with people. For example, our church is located in a downtown area. I often walk around and step into local stores. On campus, I love jumping into all the groups that meet throughout the week, even if it just means popping your head into a room and waving to everyone. Accessible pastors embrace their public image and use it to their advantage.

Be available to those who need you most: your family, mentees, the hurting, key leaders, and your direct reports. Availability to all, however, is a trap. But for everyone else in your flock, you must be accessible to them.


Dr. Charles Stone is a leadership coach specializing in assisting pastors and their spouses. He writes a blog  that I find to be very helpful in leadership development and pastoral equipping. He has written an excellent book called 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them. Recently he provided this post that helps clarify what we mean by transformational leadership.

Are you a Transactional Leader or a Transformational Leader? Take this test and find out.

Recently I was privileged to hear Dr. James Galvin speak on leadership.  He’s authored many books on the subject and has consulted with such organizations as the Willow Creek Assocation, Zondervan, and Wycliffe. He explained a concept called “The Full Range Leadership Model” which contrasts transactional leadership from transformational leadership. You can find a really cool visual that describes the two here.

Essentially transactional leadership is “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” At times we must lead as transactional leaders. For example, we set a ministry or organizational goal and when a staffer helps that goal get met, a reward comes. In contrast, however, we should seek to grow our leadership so that we lead more often as transformational leaders.

Based on the descriptions below, how would others describe your default leadership patterns? The first four represent transactional leaders. The last five characterize transformational leaders.

  • I often avoid getting involved. I tend to be passive.
  • I loosely monitor what’s happening in the ministry and step in only if things go really bad.
  • I set clear goals and standards and closely monitor the staff and step in when things begin to get off track.
  • I set clear goals, provide needed support, and praise good performance.

  • I listen to others and coach them to bring out their best.
  • I ask others for their thoughts and perspectives.
  • I’m genuinely positive, enthusiastic, and cast a compelling vision.
  • I often talk about shared mission, vision, and values with the team.
  • My simple presence can inspire others’ confidence.

Find a few trusted friends and ask them to share with you where they’d place you on this scale.