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Friday, July 6, 2018

"Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders" (Aubrey Malphurs)

TITLE: Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders: How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Transform Your Ministry
AUTHOR: Aubrey Malphurs
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2018, (240 pages).

Our emotions are critically important for effective ministry and mature leadership. Learning to manage and cultivate our emotional well-being is key in leadership. For author Aubrey Malphurs, this is also known as "emotionally mature leadership." While skills can be taught and experience can be gained, maturity is something else altogether. It is closely linked to our emotional conditions. The author puts forth six reasons why.

  1. Emotionally mature believers are also spiritually mature
  2. The Godhead is characterized by emotions
  3. An emotionally mature church is a symbol of hope to the world
  4. Emotionally intelligence is crucial for God-honouring leadership
  5. Scripture affirms the importance of emotional maturity
  6. Emotions are central to the human being and living.

He begins the book with a discussion of emotional intelligence, tracing all the way back to philosophers like Plato, psychologists like Peter Salovey, John Mayer, and Daniel Goleman, and many others. In a world that elevates objectivity above all things, it may have unwittingly downplayed the role of subjective behaviour. Without awareness, one could make relational mistakes unknowingly. They could miss out biblical insights about human emotions. They miss out on the positives of emotional strengths such as teamwork, communications, conflict resolutions, routine interactions, and many more. Leading well means having healthy emotional intelligence. This is about being aware of ourselves as well as others' emotions. It is about being able to handle the negative emotions too, both ours and others. I appreciate the space Malphurs gave to distinguish emotions from moods and temperament.  Moods are short-term feelings and temperaments are "hardwired preferences." Emotions on the other hand are unique, unplanned, and subconscious. They are not feelings but they produce feelings. We learn about the seven primary emotions in the Bible before being introduced to Robert Plutchik's eight primary, secondary emotions, and the subsequent varied emotional intensities. If that is insufficient, we get a few more emotional models to compare with. He makes great effort to link the modern study of psychology with the biblical principles. For instance, he uses the Christian triad of faith, hope, and love to contrast with illegitimate fear. Several exercises are included to help readers deal with their own set of emotions as well. Whether emotions are perceived good or bad, right or wrong, appropriate or not, we do well to recognize their reality in us so that we know how to deal with them constructively. Part Three deals with the how-to in developing emotional maturity. Like the way the seven deadly vices are contrasted with the seven virtues, Malphurs contrasts the five unhealthy emotions with the opposites. Hate is contrasted with love; sorrow with joy; fear with hope; dread with anticipation; and distrust with trust. Finally, we get a set of leadership emotions that we can cultivate. The author supplies a whole list of things we can do to help us improve our emotional maturity.

  1. We can audit our own emotions
  2. We can detect emotional disorders
  3. We build up listening skills
  4. We practice conflict resolution
  5. We develop networking skills
  6. We take risks
  7. We solve problems
  8. We learn to confront in a constructive manner
  9. We build trust
  10. We learn to encourage others
  11. We work on team building
  12. We initiate name recognition. 

These and many more form the study, audit, and development of one's emotional strengths and weaknesses.

Three Thoughts
First, in an objective-oriented world, emotions is something we tend to shun. Plenty of resources focus on the how and what to do. Even Christian ministry is not immune to such thinking. As a result, the Church is greatly impoverished when we downplay something as important as human emotions. Thankfully, Malphurs has put his finger on an important issue: Leaders need to learn how to develop their emotions toward maturity. I think of a recent book by Peter Scazzero, who wrote the bestselling book: "The Emotionally Healthy Church" and "The Emotionally Healthy Leader." Compared to Scazzero's books, I feel that this book tends to bring more systematic study of emotions. Simply put, this book is relatively more academic than Scazzero's version. However, both emphasize the critical role emotions play in ministry. I am glad that there is another resource to champion the importance of emotional development in leadership and ministry.

Second, I appreciate the many applications the author has given with regard to emotions. Instead of mere individual emotional development, leadership also involves being aware of others; the way team works; and how to manage the mix of varied emotions. From self-audit to group activities; decision making to risk taking; confrontation to encouragement, there are many areas that emotional development can venture into. There are more. In fact, different emotions arise at different circumstances and personal phases of life. The more self-aware we are, the better we are able to apply the lessons in this book. That is why I would suggest readers take time to do self-audit and honesty. It is tempting to read this book with an overly optimistic sense of self. For that matter, we could also swing to the other extreme of pessimism. For both, we must tamper that with reality and authenticity.

Finally, this book could be improved with more real life cases. Perhaps, it is the seminary slant that Malphurs comes from, where the materials in the book tend to be more theoretical. This is necessary but readers may become lost in the ocean of ideas. We connect better with stories and this is where Scazzero's books fare better. 

In general, this is a good book to trigger self-awareness and personal reflection. We get biblical perspectives on emotional well-being. For that, I would recommend this book as a primer toward emotional education and emotional intelligence.

Aubrey Malphurs is professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary. He founded the Church consulting group, Malphurs Group in 1972 and has written many books on leadership, pastoral matters, and Church ministry.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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