What Makes a Leader?

I recently read an article by Daniel Goleman in the Harvard Business Review (June 1996) titled, “What Makes a Leader?” Goleman states that, although leaders come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, the most effective leaders he studies have one thing in common: a high degree of emotional intelligence (EI).

People high in EI exhibit five skills:

  • Self-awareness: knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and impact on others.
  • Self-regulation: controlling or redirecting disruptive impulses and moods.
  • Motivation: relishing achievement for its own sake.
  • Empathy: understanding other people’s emotional makeup.
  • Social skill: building rapport with others to move them in desired directions.

One of the first things I do when I read articles like this one is start to analyze whether I have any of these skills. After all, I consider myself a leader. And sometimes, I even consider myself to be effective at leadership. But do I have these skills? I was put at ease when Goleman said, “Emotional intelligence increases with age.” Although I would not consider myself old right now, at least I know that I will be able to grow in these areas as I do keep aging.

As I reflected on these five skills, there were a few questions that came to mind that I had to ask myself.

1. Do I know my strengths and weaknesses?
I was fortunate enough to read a great book after I graduated from college called Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton. The book allowed me to take an online test that named my top five strengths. It was eye opening experience, as it was the first time I was able to articulate clearly my strengths.

2. Despite my mood, am I the same person in all situations? Am I always me?
Regardless if I’m having a good or bad day, I still have to be approachable and effective in my work.

3. What am I motivated by? Are those motivators extrinsic or intrinsic?
Even in ministry, I am aware of how money and recognition motivate me to do well. That is not a bad thing. However, in ministry leadership, my intrinsic motivation constantly needs to be about doing God’s work really well.

4. Do I really understand where the people I minister with are coming from?
This was a hard question for me to answer because I know the answers is sometimes no. I have had to check my attitude more than once to make sure that I am not so task oriented that I forget I am working with people who have needs. I know I need to be more empathetic.

5. Am I constantly building relationships?
It’s said time and time again, but it is true. Ministry is all about relationships. At the heart of all we do in leadership, people come first. We serve people and we serve with people.

After asking myself these questions, I already know that I need to spend more time building up my EI skills. Which skill do you need to work on the most?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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