Leading self — seven signs you’re a highly emotionally competent leader

This month we’re taking a deep dive into leadership and answering the question — “how do I become a great leader, and how do I not only lead myself, but others?”

Being a great leader goes beyond just having technical skills or being able to delegate tasks efficiently. It involves understanding and managing emotions, both in yourself and in others — in other words, being emotionally competent. 

In my 25 years of experience, and supporting hundreds of leaders and senior managers to build high performing, happy teams, there’s certainly one thing that stands out to me:

There is a strong correlation between the level of success an organisation experiences and the level of emotional intelligence seen in senior management and leaders. 

Here are seven signs I’ve witnessed over the years that suggest you’re a highly emotionally competent leader.

  1. You’re self-aware

You have a good understanding of your own emotions and how they affect your behaviour. You’re able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and are open to feedback.

A leader who is self-aware might notice that they tend to get defensive when receiving criticism, and they might work on being more open to feedback and trying to see things from different perspectives.

  1. You’re empathetic

You’re able to understand and relate to the emotions of others. You actively listen to their concerns and are able to respond in a way that shows you care.

A leader who is empathetic might take the time to understand the challenges that their team members are facing, and they might offer support or resources to help them overcome those challenges.

  1. You’re adaptable

You’re able to adjust your communication style and behaviour to fit the needs of different individuals or situations. You’re also able to handle change and uncertainty with ease.

A leader who is adaptable might change their communication style when working with team members who have different personalities or work styles. They might also be open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

  1. You’re optimistic

You have a positive outlook and are able to see the good in situations. You’re able to inspire and motivate others to see the same.

A leader who is optimistic might encourage their team to focus on what’s going well and to look for opportunities in challenging situations. They might also celebrate successes and milestones along the way.

  1. You’re decisive

You’re able to make tough decisions while considering the emotions and needs of others. You’re able to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision that’s best for the team.

A leader who is decisive might make a tough decision to cut a project that’s not working out, while also taking the time to communicate the decision clearly to the team and listening to their concerns.

  1. You’re accountable

You take responsibility for your actions and decisions. You’re able to admit when you’re wrong and are willing to learn from your mistakes.

A leader who is accountable might take responsibility for a mistake that was made on their watch, and they might work with their team to come up with a plan to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

  1. You’re authentic

You’re true to yourself and your values, and more importantly, you take action when you identify a mismatch in your value (or others) and the values of an organisation. You’re able to show vulnerability and admit when you don’t know something. You also encourage others to do the same.

A leader who is authentic might admit when they don’t know something, and they might be open to learning from their team members who have more expertise in certain areas. They might also encourage their team to be themselves and bring their unique perspectives to the table.

These are just a few signs of being a highly emotionally competent leader. Of course, like any skill, emotional intelligence is something that can be developed and strengthened over time.