One of the most difficult duties for a presidential search committee is to answer this question: What does our school want and need in a new president? To find the answer, search committees go to great lengths to define the heartbeat of their community. They conduct interviews, produce surveys, study dashboards, and dig deep into the school’s ethos and mission. They ask lots of questions: Do we need a strong theologian? Someone with pastoral experience? A preacher or teacher? A church-networked leader? A fundraiser? Someone who connects with students? And, finally, how do we gauge whether a candidate's leadership ability fits the community?
One of the most important factors in a presidential search is usually left off the job description: Emotional intelligence. Yet a presidency's success is contingent on how a president deals with acrimonious faculty members, angry students, community crises, or confrontations with trustees or donors. Search committee members already recognize the importance of interpersonal skills, but how can they assess a candidate’s emotional intelligence?
First, the committee can educate itself on how emotional intelligence shapes leadership, and they can include some of its characteristics in the presidential profile. Characteristics of emotional intelligence include self-control, empathy, sociability, collegiality, motivation, inclusiveness, clarity in communication, and the ability to elicit trust.
Second, key questions can be posed to every candidate – and their previous associates – to determine how well the candidates reflect emotional intelligence. The easiest part of any search process is identifying candidates whose resume fits the needs of the school. To determine emotional intelligence, however, deeper questions are be required.
It is vital that search committees build the emotional intelligence factor into the heart of their search process. It’s not effective enough as an “add-on.” Emotional intelligence will play a central role in the life of the president. Consequently, it should play a central role within the search process as well.
For resources on how your search committee can build emotional intelligence into its search process, please contact the In Trust Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 302-654-7770.
For more information on emotional intelligence, read this recent article from the New York Times: "How to be emotionally intelligent."
Image: Portrait of a Man. 2004-2006. Gert Germeraad.