Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What’s your EQ?

Written by: on October 13, 2015


Manfred Kets De Vries, in “The Leadership Mystique,” contends that emotional intelligence (EQ) is actually more substantial in higher levels of leadership than IQ. He writes: “And people who possess emotional intelligence are more effective at motivating themselves and others. Such individuals also do better when placed in a leadership position, because they’re better equipped to track down the rationality behind irrational behavior.”[1] He also indicates that executives are often “out of touch with their feelings. The many years of conformity on the corporate path have blurred the distinction between their own feelings and the feelings that are expected of them.”[2] So executives need emotional awareness, and often are emotionally inept because “they don’t pay attention to their inner world. In fact, they keep themselves busy just to make sure they don’t have time to reflect. It’s rarely a conscious avoidance, but it’s avoidance nonetheless. They run faster and faster, giving very little thought to what they’re running for or where they’re running to.”[3]

It isn’t much of a stretch to draw a line between the need for emotional health and the general lack of emotional awareness from business leaders over to pastors, especially those of my generation and older. I distinctly remember a homiletics class that scolded me for being too authentic with my feelings. That sentiment wasn’t uncommon. In some ways, the elevated image of the “professional pastor” was very thoughtful, somewhat stoic—or at a minimum, above the everyday ordinary ups-and-downs of life. The image of the professional pastor had little to do with actual emotional awareness and health; it had more to do with the ability to suppress and hide one’s emotions. That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of classes on pastoral counseling and practical theology—but they were all designed to make one adept at handling the emotions of others but not necessarily developing your own emotional awareness and health. So I’d concur with Kets De Vries, but I’d adjust the words he uses: pastors don’t pay attention to their inner world. Pastors keep themselves busy to make sure they don’t have time to reflect.   Pastors can be so focused on church life, and church performance, they can’t differentiate themselves from their churches.

A healthy way forward—for pastors or any Christ-follower—is outlined in another book: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. The premise of the brutally honest book is that “It’s impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature.”[4] Scazzero advocates the integration of emotional health and the life in Christ. How? Through contemplative spirituality—a life with God that will form you into the person God intends. As a result, you’ll experience a level of emotional health unavailable through any other means.

Kets De Vries pulls off the cover and looks at what lurks beneath. Most people don’t want to do that. But he also acknowledges that people can change, if they will slow down and reflect on their lives.[5] Scazzero presents the same basic insight. We need to slow down and get to know ourselves, so that in knowing our selves better we can know God better too. As Christ-followers there is always hope: hope because we can change, we can mature. Emotional intelligence and spiritual formation go hand in hand.   God’s Spirit in us makes it possible. Practically, we can adopt some spiritual disciplines, create a system of spiritual practices that keeps our union with God our greatest priority and creates margin in life necessary for relational and emotional health.


[1] Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise, 2nd ed. (Harlow, England.: FT Press, 2009), 17.

[2] Ibid, 26.

[3] Ibid, 46.

[4] Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature (Nashville: Zondervan, 2014), 1.

[5] Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, 47.

About the Author

Dave Young

husband, dad, friend, student of culture and a pastor.

12 responses to “What’s your EQ?”

  1. Calvin makes the same point basically saying that a knowledge of self informs our knowledge of God and our knowledge of God informs our knowledge of self.

    Good article. Concise and tight. ?

  2. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Dave, And we wonder why the Church has become irrelevant … “I distinctly remember a homiletics class that scolded me for being too authentic with my feelings. That sentiment wasn’t uncommon.” I wonder how much this was to do with the cultural shift as well that from the modern era to post-modernity the value put on emotions. It seems like my grandfather’s generation in the heart of the Western modernity hay day, thrived in much of an emotionless life. I can distinctly remember wondering many times as he watched us, his grandchildren (especially grandsons), grow up, feeling a distinct tension from a different set of bearings probably most directly related to the amount of emotion we expressed, pursued, and let influence us. I have also been in several men’s ministry settings where there has been specific emotional breakthroughs where grown men dealing with father issues realize the different world we have grown up in verses are fathers who culturally weren’t encouraged or even allowed to live with the amount of emotional acknowledgement, interaction, and again influence. Interesting stuff. Does Scazzero’s stuff talk of the generational shifts??? Thanks for the good post!

    • Dave Young says:

      Phil, Much of my upbringing was defined by a stoic father who had no idea how to express his love. He grew up in a generation, as you point out that didn’t express feelings – that believed you love by ‘working’. I was burdened with ‘father issues’ for the first few decades it’s only been the last two decades that I’ve experienced God’s Fatherly love. Thanks surfacing the generational aspect. And that’s not what Scazzero’s work deals with. He’s more focused on contemplative spirituality as a source of healing – regardless of where the scars came from.

  3. Jon Spellman says:

    The contention of those who study EQ is that, unlike IQ, it can be developed. Once you know that you are emotionally UNintelligent, you can take steps to grow in that arena. I wonder thought how much of that comes down to a place of recognizing the need to improve? My dad, much like yours, was very busy doing stuff but had virtually no ability to connect and nurture the emotional life of his kids and if I’m being honest, he probably would;t have a context to understand that this would even be important. That’s why there are moms, right?

    So, we have to answer the same question for ourselves, if EQ can be developed, is it important that we actually take steps to do that?

  4. Nick Martineau says:

    Great post Dave. I particularly like Scazzero books…He also has one called “Emotionally Healthy Church” that’s pretty helpful.

    You really exposed a major issue when you said, “I distinctly remember a homiletics class that scolded me for being too authentic with my feelings. That sentiment wasn’t uncommon.” I hope seminaries have stopped that kind of teaching but I don’t think they have. It was common for me to hear that too in my preaching classes. If the church/teaching/preaching can’t be emotionally true then we are in trouble. However, I know there’s a balance but I can’t “emotionally vomit” on the congregation either. How have you found the balance in your teaching and leading?

    • Dave Young says:

      Nick, Maryanne helps me keep the balance. I probably leaned to heavy onto sharing my inner world/life authentically with the church and she’s pulled back the reigns a few times. Saying I shared too much of our private life. I guess the ‘balance’ is believing that I have a private and a public life, that I can reference my private life without going into details. At least not from the pulpit. Frankly I regret pulling back from being authentic because for right now it doesn’t seem like a have a small group I can do that with.

  5. Brian Yost says:

    “plenty of classes on pastoral counseling and practical theology—but they were all designed to make one adept at handling the emotions of others but not necessarily developing your own emotional awareness and health.”

    This helps explain why so many “great” pastors burn out or self-destruct. When I first started in ministry, an older pastor’s wife told my wife, “Don’t get close to people in your church. It is unhealthy and they will just hurt you.” We determined that we didn’t want to become a bitter, lonely pastoral family. Where ever we have served, we have formed deep, lasting relationships with the people in our churches.

    • Dave Young says:

      Brain, I appreciate your commitment to not become ‘a bitter, lonely pastoral family’. Close friends within the church is something we’ve had in the past and we have the potential for today – but then it comes down to intentionality with investing in those friendships. .

  6. Travis Biglow says:

    Sounding like a real pastors pastor Dave. I think it is so important for us to deal with our inner health issues the most at this point in my life. I remeber years ago in an ordination class a friend of expressed his inner feelings and he was scolded too. I was afraid from that moment to even cross that line. And i too had some great spiritual formation and pastoral counseling classes that let me know it is nothing wrong with that but it is actually needed. Oh if we had people we could just spill our guts too who are mature enough to just listen and pray with you. My denomination would love for you to do that, but it will be preached over the pulpit the next service!!!!!!!! Lol

  7. Mary Pandiani says:

    “Emotional intelligence and spiritual formation go hand in hand.” You tapped into what I’ve been addressing in my life and those around me for the last few years. It’s not one or the other – it’s an integration of our whole being as God created us to be. By recognizing that God is at work in us, even in the difficult stuff, we have a greater capacity to see ourselves, God and others. But it does require practice…it doesn’t just happen. Intentionality is key.
    It breaks my heart that you’ve been “tempered” by those who feel you are too authentic. I believe a statement like that has more to do with them, than you.
    Sure appreciate your honesty.

Leave a Reply