A Move from Head to Heart: Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

white-6By: Rozella H. White, M.A.R.

Increasingly, leadership development experts have found that the number one skill to be nurtured in people who are leading change is emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, in his seminal article for the Harvard Business Review, asserted the following:

“…the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities”; that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”[1]

Emotional intelligence is defined as a group of five skills (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill) that enable the best leaders to maximize their own and their followers’ performance.[2] It has been proven that leaders who spend time developing these skills not only excel in their roles but they also inspire those who follow them to strive for excellence.

It can be said that the focus on emotional intelligence helps leaders move from their head to the heart. Technical skills and one’s IQ deal with knowledge that is learned and gained over time. Much has been written and many courses have been developed to help leaders sharpen particular skills that get the job done. However, a focus on emotional intelligence taps into those feelings and ways of being that undergird healthy relationships and a healthy sense of self. Emotional intelligence is about how leaders show up in the world, which is different from what leaders do in the world.

Leaders cannot cultivate their emotional intelligence without dropping down into their emotional center. Each of the five skills require deep, personal introspection and have wide external implications. In order for leaders to achieve their highest potential, attention must be paid to their holistic development.

A person who wants to be a leader with the widest and deepest impact has to engage their own stories and experiences that have formed them. So many people live a compartmentalized life and lead in the same way. Parker Palmer calls this way of being a “divided life.” Leaders who do the work to engage their head and their heart move toward integration, which allows trust, compassion, authenticity, and clarity of vision to flourish. Not only is the leader’s life made better, they then provide a vision for what life and leadership could be for others.

Leaders, especially leaders of Christian faith, are called to a life of integration, one that is steeped in the tradition of Jesus. This tradition calls leaders into a new way of being, one that brings to bear all of the gifts, skills, and passions of leaders. One of the reasons I am passionate about the work that LEAD does is because it is an organization that attends to the WHOLE person. Not only are resources to enhance one’s technical skills provided, but LEAD also provides experiences, education, and personal development that attend to the emotional intelligence of leaders. Our communities, our churches, our nation, and our world need leaders who lead from their head and their hearts. If you are interested in developing your emotional intelligence and being an integrated leader, join us.

[1] Goleman, Daniel. “What Makes a Leader.” Harvard Business Review, 1998.

[2] IBID.

Rozella Haydée White Biography

Rozella Haydée White is a coach, creator, and consultant accompanying individuals, organizations and communities live meaningful lives by embracing the fullness of who they are.

Rozella currently serves as the Houston City Director for Mission Year, an organization committed to walking with young adults as they fall in love with Jesus and the city, come alive in their gifts and purpose, build beloved community across dividing lines and become advocates for God’s justice in our neighborhoods and world. She previously served as the Director for Young Adult Ministry for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), one of the largest protestant denominations in the United States.

As a writer, teacher, preacher and public theologian, Rozella is a known presence on social media boldly engaging issues of faith, justice, mental illness and the radical and transformative love of Jesus. Rozella is desperately seeking justice, mercy, humility and love. She believes that everyone is gifted and has the power to transform themselves, their communities and the world when they tap into their most authentic self.

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