Most people think they are smarter than average. For pastors, they may be right! It’s amazing what it takes to be a pastor. Many have had to learn to read two foreign languages to get through seminary (Hebrew and Greek) and be familiar with two more (Latin and German). Then there are the challenges of Systematic, Historical, Practical and Exegetical theology. Add to that the need to be good communicators and teachers. It is a demanding and daunting task! One needs to have the basics “smarts” to get through the mine field of theological education! But “IQ” is only one type of intelligence. Someone who is smart in theology does not necessarily translate into being a good pastor.

We know that intuitively. We’ve seen people whom we may have pejoratively described as “eggheads” and knew they wouldn’t be good at a particular job because we knew they lacked that certain something that other “normal” people had. That certain something is “EQ” or sometimes “EI” as in, “Emotional Intelligence.” When it was discovered, “it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with the highest levels of intelligence (IQ) outperformed those with average IQ’s just 20 percent of the time, while people with average IQ’s outperformed those with high IQ’s 70 percent of the time” (Bradberry and Grieves, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, 2009). The clear point is that IQ is not the best predictor of success. What does make the difference is how emotionally intelligent you are. In their book, Bradberry and Graves define EQ as: “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” They say that it accounts for “58% of performance in all types of jobs.” Furthermore they say that “90% of high performers are also high in EQ.” On the other hand “just 20% of low performers are high in EQ."

Just think of the person who is calm under fire compared to the person who flies off the handle at the board meeting. Think of the person who knows when to back off when others aren’t ready or are upset rather than push through like nothing was wrong. That is the difference that emotional intelligence makes. We encounter both kinds of people every day and have names for them! What names do people have of us?!

The good news is that while IQ is more or less a fixed number, EQ can be learned. But it takes work. Furthermore it is work that we often would rather not learn. Who likes to hear feedback about ourselves and how we come across? How many of us don’t get defensive when we are told we are getting too loud or defensive or angry or you fill in the blank. It is often a tough pill to swallow. It takes a certain kind of maturity to be willing to listen, learn and make the necessary adjustments. It is a lot like the parable where Jesus tells us to get the log out of our own eye in Matthew 7.

So we’d rather do something easier like read a book about the latest leadership idea or technique. We’d rather increase our knowledge of theology or the latest program. Those things are easier to do. Maybe they will help. They may be all well and good. But the elephant in the room may not be lurking in those subjects or areas. The real problem may well be one's emotional intelligence. It’s often not something that can be improved by ourselves. We often can’t fix what we are denying or not even seeing. But if we are really serious about getting better, we’ll seek out others who can help us grow our self awareness and self management and the awareness of others and relationships.

If you want to talk about this more, let me know, I’d be happy to explore the subject with you.

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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, or

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