This topic introduces Emotional Intelligence. It considers the social nature of man, as created by God, and that as a consequence of the Fall our interpersonal skills no longer function as God intended. As a result we are lacking maturity in what has been termed as Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence describes the characteristics required to relate well to people, a foundational skill for Christ-centered servant leaders. The scope, nature and characteristics of emotional intelligence are introduced. The key practical skills are of the emotionally intelligent person are outlined.

God Made…

Genesis 1:27 and 2:18 shows us that God made mankind to be social beings.  “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” We discover that animals, although at this point not afraid of him, are not helpers fit for man. So God creates woman such that together they are a mutual help, support and company.  So, from the outset men and woman are made to be social in nature, living in relationship with one another.

“Having made man and women “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31It is interesting that at the end of the previous 5 days God considered things simply to be good, but now, having completed it all, they were “exceedingly good” (According to Vines Dictionary, the word translated “very” is stronger than our modern use of very and offers “exceedingly”). Consequently, as created, it is clear that man’s interpersonal skills will have been “exceedingly good” too.

Alas we are all too familiar with the Fall and its consequences, which are recounted in Genesis 3. As a result of man’s wilful and rebellious disobedience sin entered the world and resulted in the corruption of man’s nature and character. The Bible is so full of accounts of the breakdown of man’s ability to live and relate together that we can be in no doubt that our social interaction abilities are now far from “exceedingly good”. The Bible’s accounts of Joseph, and the brothers Jacob and Esau, come readily to mind as prime examples of failed relationships because of what we would now call poor interpersonal skills, or in this context poor Emotional Intelligence.  It’s obvious that some people are better in this area than others, but none of us are in the place of the perfection God intended at the end of his work of creation.

God’s remedy to the Fall and its consequences is the Cross and sacrifice of Christ which results in our being made a new creation in Him, through the Holy Spirit  – 2 Corinthians 5:17  who also lives in us as our “Counsellor”. In Romans 12:2 Paul instructs us to co-operate with the Holy Spirit, that our minds might be transformed and aligned to God’s will, so that we will no longer conform to the natural “pattern of this world”.

Our natural, human nature tends to be selfish and self-focussed and this works out in our relationships with others. We tend to focus upon self and not the benefit of others which would be a reflection of God’s agape-love working through us. For the moment focussing primarily on our topic, this transformation in our thinking will work out in improved attitudes to and relationship with others. Why? Because we now have God’s heart newly created within us, and with the Holy Spirit’s help we regain some of those interpersonal abilities lost in the Fall as we mature in Christ.

In Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 The Teacher makes plain that there are benefits to be had from working together with others. Aside from the fact that working with others can be very pleasant and rewarding, and for extrovert types quite necessary, these benefits include.

  • Greater reward

  • Support and resilience

  • Strength and security

  •  Take A Moment: Spend a little time reviewing the stories of Joseph and the brothers Jacob and Esau and see what you can learn about their interpersonal skills.

We have seen that God intended man to be a social being enjoying the benefit of relating to others but that our interpersonal skills, rather than being exceedingly good, have become exceedingly diminished.

This is an area of skill, summed up with the term “Emotional Intelligence”, that needs transformation if we are to be Christ-centred servant leaders, living out the character of Christ in maturity as we lead others.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

In 1995  TIME Magazine headlined Emotional Intelligence.

Traditionally IQ was considered the best predictor of ability and likely success. We are all probably familiar with IQ tests to some degree; they measure aspects of intelligence such as verbal, logical and arithmetic reasoning, visual and spatial perception, speed of thought and so on.

However, even when it was being championed, it had been observed that in reality IQ was not necessarily a good predictor of success in life. It had been observed that those whom we would describe as being “good with people” often out performed those with high IQ. As a first approximation it is these “good with people” skills that were dubbed as “Emotional Intelligence”.

Back in the 1920’s when the work on IQ was in the ascendency, researchers were already considering whether there was such a thing as social intelligence. The term Emotional Intelligence first appeared in the 1960s. In the mid to late 1980s there was an increased focus and work was published by Payne, Beasley, Greenspan, Salovey, Meyer, and Goleman. Most of the work on Emotional Intelligence was focused on the workplace in the search for business efficiency. However, it is none the less generally applicable, and in this module we tend to focus on Goleman’s model.

In his 1998 book, Goleman talks of a new emphasis because the rules of work were changing. People were no longer being judged by thinking capability but how we relate to other people; our personal qualities; how adaptable, flexible and persuasive we are and so on. In short, how well we work with other people. Research demonstrates that leadership and management is about that, rather than just our thinking capability and decision making processes. It’s about how we relate to and motivate the people around us.

Phil Reinders, a pastor in Alberta, observes that in the church “It is vital to consider emotional intelligence, because pastoral ministry involves human dynamics.” If there is a role that relates to and works with people, then the pastor is that role. With it comes the whole emotional dynamic of spiritual and emotional care for others. Reinders’ observation is that in the church we have tended to neglect knowledge of ourselves, despite Calvin’s observation that self-knowledge is a consequence of knowing God. As we shall see, self-awareness and self-knowledge is actually the key to being aware of others and transforming our relationships with them.

Simply for your awareness, more recently it has been postulated that as spiritual beings we must also have what is termed as spiritual intelligence. This is not a Christian idea but it has emerged from eastern spirituality.

Emotional Intelligence Defined

Each of the researchers on Emotional Intelligence has a different perspective, which means there is no single definition.  We see here the definitions of Salovey and Mayer and Daniel Goleman.

“[Emotional Intelligence is the ability to] “perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion in the self and others.”       Salovey and Mayer (2000)

“[Emotional Intelligence is] the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions effectively in others and ourselves.”                      Daniel Goleman (1996)

  • Take a Moment: Spend a few moments thinking through Salovey and Mayer’s and Goleman’s definitions. Make some notes on your observations.

Some researchers consider Emotional Intelligence to be based on personality traits. Therefore, these researchers consider that one’s Emotional Intelligence is a relatively fixed thing, albeit variable in the sense that how personality works out is usually considered situational. That is, one’s reaction is not simply dependent on one’s own personality alone but also the situation that you are in, and the personalities of others who are involved.

Other researchers consider Emotional Intelligence to be a skill or ability directly related to emotion that can be developed – Salovey and Mayer are in this camp. Goleman considers Emotional Intelligence to be a combination of the two. He also tends to look at it from the perspective of brain functioning. His research shows that key factors include how one’s mind processes emotion and therefore Emotional Intelligence is not fixed but can be significantly developed.

In reality, Emotional Intelligence is a complex concept and as a result there is no single theory and no single definition. However, in one way or another all the researchers include the following elements in their models of Emotional Intelligence:

  • Being self-aware – i.e. understanding self; what motivates and drives me.

  • Being able to modify my behaviour as a result of that understanding.

  • Then, as a result of self-awareness, to be able to understand other people, what motivates them and drives them.

  • Then having or developing relational and social skills, to be able to manage my own behaviour in order to better relate to others.

  • Modifying my behaviour so that other people can better relate to me.

In one form or another key elements are as listed:

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-regulation

  • Self-motivation

  • Empathy

  • Social Skills

To be effective leaders we must develop our ability to understand ourselves and understand others and, as a consequence, develop the ability to motivate people in the right way to achieve our mutually desired goals. From the perspective of the Christ-centred servant leader this means to enable those we lead to fulfil their potential in Kingdom service.

A Biblical Injunction

  • Take a Moment: With this overview of Emotional Intelligence in mind, what can you discover from 1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

    • Initially consider how the idle (or literally unruly), fainthearted and weak might perform, from your perspective, if they had to accomplish something important and challenging?

      None of them completes the task. But on that basis alone can you differentiate between the three types of people?

    • Being honest with yourself, how might you respond to them and why? What does Paul have to say about or response?

    • What might we have to do to align our response with Paul’s guidance?

    • What will happen if you respond to all three types of people the same way? Will it be helpful? How can you know how to respond to them?

Thinking through the processes which underlie this brief study:

  • We see the need to be self-aware regarding our response.  We need to be patient and so we need to recognise our frustrations, fears and anxieties, not allowing them to drive and dictate our actions.

  • We need to regulate how we behave so we do not react angrily but with patience. This provides the opportunity to work out what is going on, whereas if we “just react” we may well be unloving in our response, harm the other person and destroy the opportunity to enable them to do what is necessary.

  • To respond helpfully and effectively we need to differentiate between the three types of people.
    So, we need to understand them. This requires empathy; that is to understand another person’s condition from their perspective; placing ourselves in their shoes and feel what they are feeling.

    Once we understand where each person is coming from we can respond appropriately. Admonishing for laziness one who is able but afraid is plainly not good. Similarly offering only encouragement to one who is unafraid but simply unable and needs help is insensitive and so on.

  • So having controlled our initial reaction and having empathised with each person we can exercise our social skills by choosing an appropriate, individual approach for each to enable them to achieve their potential.

This exercise is but one Biblical example that highlights the need for all Christians, not just leaders, to develop and employ the attributes that are described as Emotional Intelligence. Later in the module we shall look at examples which show Jesus as a model of emotional intelligence.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Developing our Emotional Intelligence means that we must engage with its complexity. That requires the integrated development of all the factors that underpin Emotional Intelligence:

  • There is something we must do about developing our thinking; the rational processes of understanding the information we perceive in the situations we are in,

  • There is something we must do about understanding our own feelings and the feelings of other people and ;

  • There is something we must do about understanding our own behaviour and how other people are behaving in situations.

Emotional Intelligence is about the fusion of these three areas; thinking, emotion and behaviour. So, as we develop it in ourselves, we need to develop our capabilities in each of these aspects.

EI at a Glance

Goleman’s four  part model is one way of looking at Emotional Intelligence.

    Self         Social   
Recognition  Self-Awareness Social Awareness
Regulation Self-Management


In the Recognition part of the model, Goleman starts with recognising self – self-awareness.  This includes being aware of one’s own emotions and being accurate about that awareness.

Social Awareness is then about being aware of what is going on with other people both from an individual and an organisational perspective. Thinking also about how we serve others and how we relate with them.

In the Regulation half of the model Goleman first considers self-regulation. This is about how one controls one’s self; how open and transparent we are in our relationships and interactions with others; how we adapt to situations; what drives us – is it achievement or something else and therefore what do we focus on, do we take the initiative?

Then lastly, Relationship management is about how we use all of this in our relationship with others? How do we set about inspiring and developing others? How do we deal with conflict and change in relation to others?

Goleman also suggests that Emotional Intelligence is split in two directions. The interpersonal and the intrapersonal.

Interpersonal intelligence is about how we relate to others and how we understand them and their motivations.

Intrapersonal intelligence is about accurately understanding ourselves and how we operate based on that accurate understanding.

A key element in building this view is feedback through which we get to understand how others see us. Often our view of ourselves is limited because we don’t get much input by way of feedback. Ideally our self-view needs to be as broadly based as possible. Later we will look at a model called the JoHari Window, don’t worry, despite the style of its name it’s not New Age thinking. It is helpful in giving insight into and developing both inter and  intrapersonal intelligence.

Head and Heart

“The old paradigm held an ideal of reason freed from the pull of emotion. The new paradigm urges us to harmonize head and heart”  – Goleman

Goleman’s “old paradigm[1]” is about IQ, not Emotional Intelligence, and was all about intellect and reason. It held on to reason rather than thinking about emotion and relationships. This went as far as to consider leadership to be devoid of emotion and focused on making rationally correct decisions.

The “new paradigm” of Emotional Intelligence is not about emotional thinking without reason, but it is about blending emotion and reason together, harmonising them.

  • Take a Moment:
    • Recall a time when your “HEART ruled your head[2]
      • What was the decision that you made?
      • Why did you make that particular decision?

    • Recall a time when your “HEAD ruled your heart[3]
      • What was the decision that you made?
      • Why did you make that particular decision?

    • Was there any difference in the quality of the outcomes?
      • How did you feel about the results?

    • How do rational logic and emotion combine in your normal way of making decisions?

    • How and when does God factor in your decision making process?

[1] Paradigm – a typical example or pattern of something; a pattern or model – Oxford English Dictionary

[2] You made a  decision more based on emotion than rational logic

[3] You made  a decision more based on rational logic than emotion