Leadership Traits - Emotional Stability

As leadership traits go, this one which is most often measured as neuroticism, deserves a better label, however, it does capture a significant aspect of personality. To put a positive spin on it, the most successful leaders are emotionally stable over time. While any leader can have a bad day, or week, the emotionally stable leader generally demonstrates mastery of emotional ups and downs.

Emotionally stable leaders:

  • Have a reasonable degree of self esteem. This leader shows confident vulnerability. These leaders know who they are and who they aren't.
  • Create teams who feel psychologically safe to take calculated risks. Emotionally stable leaders are comfortable hiring and building teams of people who complement their skills and knowledge.
  • Behave predictably. Staff know this leader's limited number of hot buttons and know how to redress the situation.
  • Emotionally stable leaders are the calm within the storm during crises

Neurotic leadership traits:

  • Reacting unpredictably. People walk on egg shells around the neurotic leader as they never know what will set him/her off
  • Throwing tantrums and often addressing performance issues publicly and in the moment rather than after a cool down period.
  • Shutting down innovation and close off important but negative information because people are afraid to approach them
  • Are the hot topic of happy hour and get nominated for Bad Boss of the Year Awards

It seems self-evident that people prefer emotionally stable leaders. At the same time, volatile leaders are sometimes also brilliant in a particular area, such as innovation, technology or social structure. Volatility may result from frustration with people who "don't get it." If there is a highly talented but volatile leader in the organization, it may be worthwhile to move the person into an individual contributor role to allow them free reign in their area of expertise.

Leadership Tips:

  • Emotionally stable leaders use anger and disappointment strategically to jog people out of complacency. They understand that occasional and well timed expressions of strong emotion have a galvanizing effect on performance.
  • Emotionally stable leaders should comfortably address emotions in the work place. When everyone is stressed, acknowledging the stress can help normalize the atmosphere.
  • If you are prone to being easily triggered, teach yourself a new habit. For example, as soon as you are aware that you are overreacting, pause and perhaps walk away.
  • If you are working to change your behavior, tell people what you are trying to accomplish and why. Ask for feedback. People are usually generous and will help and support you.
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