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Why Ministers Need To Understand The Four Foundational Principles Of Emotional Intelligence

The idea that intelligence is more multi-faceted than simply book smarts has been widely proven. It’s now acknowledged and accepted that personal intelligence is a combination of EQ (emotional intelligence), IQ (intellectual capability), and personality (innate traits). Emotional intelligence, intellectual capability, and your personality traits help to make you uniquely you.

Increasingly, those in leadership and management positions are viewing emotional intelligence as the most vital aspect of the three. The reason is because if it’s lacking, emotions can overwhelm your logical brain and your personality in negative ways. Personal experience suggests this is as prevalent in ministry as it is in business. I’ve witnessed ministers commit vocational suicide more frequently because of emotional outbursts and relationship train wrecks than anything they did or didn’t do.

So, what exactly is EQ? EQ stands for Emotional Quotient and is defined in the widely-recognized book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, as: “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to positively manage your behavior and relationships.” In other words, if you don’t know and understand your emotions and the emotions of others you can’t possibly manage your emotions and relationships successfully.

The Four Foundational Principles of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is a broad term, therefore researchers have broken it into four foundational principles to help us better understand, apply, and improve our EQ.


EQ starts and ends with understanding yourself. Some researchers use terms like self-actualization, self-regard and emotional self-awareness. Being able to recognize and understand your emotions is the foundational first principle. The bottom line is that the stronger your understanding of your own emotions, the stronger your overall EQ is.


The next foundational principle after recognizing and understanding your own emotions is regulating them. EQ researchers say before you can successfully manage your emotions you need to: 1) Perceive your emotions. 2) Understand those emotions on a logical level. 3) Interpret the meaning behind those emotions based on context and your life experience. Then and only then can you begin to successfully self-manage your emotions. In other words, effective self-management allows you to express your emotions properly.

Social awareness.

The third foundational pillar of EQ is the ability to perceive and understand the emotions and actions of those around you. A well-developed EQ provides you with a keen awareness of the people and circumstances around you. This is especially true in ministry. Whether this is being mindful of others in a staff or committee meeting or not being defensive before a critic, social awareness allows you to connect appropriately with others and to respond respectfully.

Interpersonal Management.

The final foundational principle of EQ involves effective interactions. EQ has something vital that IQ doesn’t, and that is a social component. For strong interpersonal management, you must combine your understanding of your own emotions, your observations and understanding of other people, and your ability to self-manage. A person who excels at interpersonal management is often a good decision-maker and problem-solver, is not impulsive, manages relationships well, knows how to set boundaries, and is highly empathetic.

Your Emotional Intelligence Can Grow

Emotional Intelligence is a balancing act between the attributes of these four foundational principles. An imbalanced EQ can manifest as anger or trust issues, a lack of confidence or overconfidence, low stress tolerance, difficulty making decisions, and struggling to empathize with others.

The good news is that Emotional Intelligence, is a set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. You can develop high emotional intelligence even if you aren’t born with it,” write Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, two present-day leaders of the EQ discussion.

Dr. Steve Steff, founder of Crisis Care International, uses the analogy of human muscles. Each pillar is like a muscle group, made up of individual features that are unique but work together. We want to build muscles for balanced strength and not let any muscles atrophy. So, if one part of your EQ is lower than the other, the natural next step is to develop and strengthen your weaker features. Dr. Steff, further says “I would tell any leaders, as well as my own son: develop your emotional leadership skills because on the technical side there are hundreds of thousands of guys who might have as many technical skills as you.”





Posted on August 17, 2021

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5