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Are You an Emotionally Healthy Leader?

“I didn’t like myself; I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures” -Princess Diana

July 29th, 1981 is the day Princess Diana burst onto the global stage, by marrying into the Royal family the British throne immediately becomes her identity. I cannot imagine the intense pressure that the international spotlight brought to Diana only 20 now a Princess.

I believe the responsibility of having to measure every word, carefully think through every decision, understanding the protocol of royalty with the world watching her every move left her feeling trapped and very alone.

Although publicly gracious and compassionate Princess Diana was inwardly fighting for her life, in 1995 she says, “I had never had depression in my life. But then when I analyzed it, I could see that the changes I’d made in the last year had all caught up with me, and my body was saying: we want a rest.”

Outwardly Diana conducted herself as best she could, inwardly her struggles were overwhelming. The pressures of expectations and the court of public opinion take their toll on the mental and emotional health and well being of many leaders.

What’s going on within you will find its way into every area of your life

“Behind every trigger is a wound in our past.” - Jessica Moore

To consistently conduct yourself in a confident, caring demeanor during stressful situations requires the experience and maturity of a self-aware leader. With more organizations understanding the importance of Emotional Intelligence it’s vital that existing and emerging leaders come to a thorough understanding of their emotional idiosyncrasies.

Author Cheryl Y Howard says, “Too many times we enter into positions leadership positions as well as personal and professional partnerships with open wounds and emotional baggage unhealed and/or unresolved issues that both sabotage and hinder our growth and effectiveness. The symptoms that become apparent are the ways we handle and serve people from a hurt, painful and damaged place, and we can negatively affect them in the process.” (1)

Echoing Howard’s statement, Peter Scazzero says, “Emotional deficits are manifested primarily by a pervasive lack of awareness. Unhealthy leaders lack, for example, awareness of their feelings, their weaknesses, and limits, how their past impacts their present, and how others experience them. They also lack the capacity and skill to enter deeply into the feelings and perspectives of others. They carry these immaturities with them into their teams and everything they do.” (2)

Take a moment for some emotional inventory. Can you relate to any or all the following ten symptoms?

  • You can’t shake the pressure you feel from having too much to do in too little time.

  • You are always rushing.

  • You routinely fire off quick opinions and judgments.

  • You are fearful about the future.

  • You are overly concerned with what others think.

  • You are defensive and easily offended.

  • You are constantly preoccupied and distracted.

  • You consistently ignore the stress, anxiety, and tightness of your body.

  • You feel unenthusiastic or threatened by the success of others.

  • You regularly spend more time talking than listening.

Changing the overall health of your leadership

“We cannot fix systemic problems in our leadership without fixing ourselves; emotional health is always at the heart of great leadership” – JSP

Stephen R. Covey says, “When it comes to our personal lives, we should focus on four domains: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. All of these dimensions are interconnected.” (3)

Gali Cooks comments, “When people take the time to reflect upon and understand their own internal experiences—to “know thyself”—they unearth fertile ground that is the bedrock for learning and growth.”

“The more you know about yourself—what drives you, what triggers you, what strengths you have, what weaknesses you struggle with—the better able you are to communicate those factors to your team and surround yourself with people who can complement your attributes, energy, and behavior.”

3 Considerations for Your Journey Toward Emotionally Healthy Leadership

Although there are many aspects to developing an emotionally healthy leadership, I believe these three points make a good start.

1. Confront the Dark Side

Develop a high level of self-awareness; this is a lifelong learning curve that continues with age and becomes more challenging with increasing responsibilities. Dealing with your dark side can at times prove elusive and requires vigilance; when you’re successful you may grapple with pride or subtle forms of arrogance when you’re failing, you may doubt or even demean yourself. You have everything to gain by seeking out the help of a mentor, coach, trusted circle of friends, and if need be a professional – it’s all good.

2. Develop Transparency with Healthy Boundaries

When it comes to vulnerability in leadership, Brené Brown says, “No vulnerability, no creativity. No tolerance for failure, no innovation. It is that simple. If you’re not willing to fail, you can’t innovate. If you’re not willing to build a vulnerable culture, you can’t create.”

You will never be more at peace with yourself and others than when you’re comfortable with being vulnerable with those around you. Are you honest about your mistakes? Are your conversations and demeanor in sync with who you are inside? Transparency with healthy boundaries in the workplace, and among family and friends eliminates the fear of being “found out” because there’s nothing there.

Being comfortable with the truth about yourself, and that your identity and self-worth is not in your positions, past successes or failures, level of income or status in society, alleviates an abundance of stress. Take enough time for reflection and contemplation and get to know yourself.

3. Become a Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learners are always growing to keep pace with rapid changes in society. Growing yourself into the future is always more valuable than being blindsided by it. Consider developing a high level of self-awareness non-negotiable, since our current workforce employs five generations competing for all levels of leadership.

Many leaders are still searching for that elusive destination marked “success,” so they’ll know they finally arrive. To the lifelong learner success is a lifestyle of continued growth. By becoming a student of human behavior and understanding how you process information about yourself and others, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a culture of lifelong learning and developing emerging emotionally healthy leaders in the process.

“Each one of us is different, but one thing that is true; Each one of us is wonderfully made, and so, my dear, are you!” - Donna Anello

  1. “Emotional Health & Leadership” by Author Cheryl Y Howard

  2. “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” by Peter Scazzero

  3. “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen R. Covey

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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