Interpersonal Leadership Series: An Overview
“Interpersonal Skills: Leading With Your Heart” (SL# 10)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.0 - Leading With Your Heart

A Leadership Thesis: You are leading with your heart when as a total person you consistently exercise interpersonal skills to interact effectively with other people, both in your living and in your leading. “Leading with Your Heart,” as a series of articles under six subcategories, seeks to explore and put into practice interpersonal skills that are essential to leadership as a relationship. Leading from within your internal core expresses the combined strengths of your Christian faith and values, ministry competencies, disciplined disposition, relationship abilities, and social skills. From this very core example and relationship forms a powerful expression of the journey of practicing servant leadership after the pattern of Christ.

David W. Johnson, an extensively published sociologist, has written relating interpersonal relationship to every expression of human life, including personal and family:

Interpersonal relationships are essential for our personal well-being in many ways, helping us to grow and develop cognitively and socially, to build a positive and coherent personal identity, and to feel we are firmly in touch with reality . . . Interpersonal skills, the sum total of your ability to interact effectively with other people, is not a luxury but essential to human well-being.-- from Reaching Out by David W. Johnson, pp. 17-19

1. Leadership as a Relationship
One of the discoveries of contemporaries who practice and teach servant leadership, one that was resident in Christ, is that leadership is first and foremost a relationship; not just that to the exclusion of other components, but essentially so to all other components. Since the nature of leadership is that there is at least the leader and one follower, then relationship is embedded in the performance of small tasks or large objectives. (See closing two resources.) If we seek to be excellent in our work, we must forge authentic relationships. Research reported in the book, Credibility, presses this to the front:

Leadership is a relationship. . . . Until we all, constituents and leaders alike, grab our picks and shovels and work to repair our interpersonal infrastructure, style will continue to succeed over substance, and technique will continue to triumph over truth. -- from Credibility, Kouzes and Posner, pp. 47-48

2. Leadership and the Heart
In the Old Testament and New Testament, “heart” is an expression of the central control, the will, the choosing, governing center of the whole man: physical, intellectual, and psychological. It goes deeper than cognitive information or rational exercise. With the heart we are to love God, to believe in the Christ, and to live out our days. The biblical record seldom uses “heart” to refer to the life support function of our physical organ.

Our common use of the word “heart” often reflects the biblical concept, such as:

When it comes to the subject of leadership and the heart, Holy Scripture has many insights, with “leading with your heart” readily finding its benchmark in two texts:

Jeremiah 3:15-- Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.
Philippians 1:7-- It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.

(The concept of the heart is more fully explained in articles found under the subcategory, Self-Understanding: Searching Your Own Heart.)

3. Six Interpersonal Leadership Skills
Six contemporary leadership skills and practices are applied to the roles of ministers and lay leadership in today’s church! This overview article presents only briefly the six interpersonal skills that seem to be the most significant to those of us in Christian ministry. Please visit those articles as you have an interest, and when we put them in the Servant Leaders Library.

4. Reflection/Actions/Benefits
Just what is this interpersonal leadership series all about, and how can the materials be of long-term help in developing such skills? The following is a development process:

(The following two sections are intended to provide for personal reflection and assessment.)


Interpersonal Skills: SkillTrack® Task/Needs Assessment--L. Elder

As a Christian minister, what ministry tasks and functions most often need your effective interpersonal skills? If you want to take an assessment of your need/use level of interpersonal skills, rate yourself (1 Seldom to 4 Often). Include examples.

  1. Struggling with your own self-understanding _______
  2. Getting along with difficult people. _______
  3. Communicating on a person-to-person basis. _______
  4. Communication among small group members _______
  5. Guiding and leading staff members. _______
  6. Motivating and inspiring church and staff members. _______
  7. Enlisting volunteer workers for church programs. _______
  8. Caring for, and counseling the members. _______
  9. Maintaining control of your schedule. _______
  10. Building trust with coworkers and volunteers. _______
  11. Resolving/managing personal conflict or criticism. _______
  12. Working with people in small groups. _______
  13. Showing respect to those you work with. _______
  14. Acting on your own feelings/values. _______
  15. Leading based on your relationship to others. _______

    Total: _______

Each response and the numerical total reflects dependence on interpersonal skills. Review this assessment to preview the most significant uses you may want to make of this series of articles. SkillTrack® Leadership #7 Series may be just the help you are looking for.

© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership


Executive Summary of Minister Survey
Minister/Church Relationship Committee
BGCT Executive Board
Baptist General Convention of Texas, Dallas Texas

The following statistics reflect the answers of those who responded to a written survey randomly mailed
to 1000 ministers from all regions of Texas that included rural, small town, city and urban churches. Approximately 42% of ministers returned the survey.

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