Volume 23
Number 1
The Forum issue of Association of Professional Chaplains

APC Forum Resource Reviews January 2021

Emotional Intelligence for Religious Leaders
Roy M. Oswald, John Lee West and Nadyne Guzman (Lanham, Maryland:  Rowman and Littlefield, 2018, 115 pages, hardcover, ebook, softcover)

Spiritual leadership “includes the enormous challenge of guiding people through their life choices, character development and emotional difficulties. … No other professional venue requires a person to manage as many emotional and spiritual burdens” (3). Writing within a Christian paradigm, the three authors collaborate with the experience in their fields: a pastoral coach and consultant (Roy Oswald), a therapist who’s worked with many clergy(John Lee West) and a university professor and hospital chaplain (Nadyne  Guzman); their goals are “to help individual religious leaders face their current challenges and to promote their ongoing development” and to guide seminaries and denominations “as they adjust their curriculum and policies to meet the critical task of developing emotionally intelligent religious leaders” (ix-x).

The eighteen competencies found in the pioneering work of Daniel Goldman are transformed into the six traits most essential for religious leadership: Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, Empathy, Organizational Awareness, Influence (including leadership skills), and Conflict Management (8). Two chapters are devoted to the first trait, one each to the remaining five, plus a concluding chapter on the Spirituality of the Emotionally Intelligent Leader. They are described at a basic level and applied primarily to parish settings. Each chapter includes practical suggestions for growing emotional intelligence and spiritual maturity. In addition, there is a brief conclusion and endnotes.

Hopefully, board-certified chaplains already have learned and practice these skills. Nevertheless, it could be a good resource as part of an initial presentation of emotional intelligence concepts in a seminary setting, at the start of an extended unit of CPE or a residency, or as an adjunct to coaching someone lacking in one or more areas of emotional intelligence.
Their concluding words ring true for all who are on the journey of growing emotional intelligence:

[It] is not an easy process because it requires us to both confront our inner self while changing our external interactions. In many ways, we can be as much a mystery to ourselves as God is a mystery to us. Our growth is fueled, in part, by living through profoundly challenging interpersonal and group experiences. It is the pain within those encounters that can motivate us to improve ourselves and change our behavior with others. It is essential for religious leaders to be in continual growth—the importance of this process cannot be overstated. (105)

Reviewed by Roy F. Olson D. Min. a retired BCC who specialized in behavioral health chaplaincy.


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