It is this simple: no emotional stability, no mental toughness.  And, therefore, no resilient leadership.


Emotional stability reflects the capacity to be calm during a crisis, to tolerate minor stresses and strains in daily work, be patient with employees, and remain unflustered in the face of obstacles.  How do you fare against this definition.  Does your emotional stability enhance your resilience or undermine it?


If a leader is to build his resilience, then he also needs to develop his emotional stability.  Resilience doesn’t work without it.


Why is Emotional Stability so Important?

Emotional stability in leadership is important for two main reasons:


  1. Impact on own resilient leadership
  2. Impact on team members’ emotional exhaustion


  1. Impact on own resilient leadership

Low emotional stability simply drains away a leader’s resilience.  It erodes mental toughness and creates conditions unsuitable for rebuilding resilience.  It allows uncontained emotions to infect other attributes that contribute to and build resilience.


By learning to maintain a stable emotional state, the leader is creating the conditions where his mental toughness and resilience are reliable and realistic.  He can maintain focus on the situation and avoids the turmoil and chaos our emotions can trick us into.


By being emotionally stable, the leader gives himself a strong base for decision making and relationship building and a foundation for building his resilience.


  1. Impact on team members’ emotional exhaustion

Emotional exhaustion is widely considered to be a key factor in job burnout.  Typically, it reflects general feelings of being worn down, over extended, and drained of emotional and energy resources.  It is important in this discussion because of the impact of emotional stability in a leader on his team members.


The experience of working with low emotional stability leaders on a daily basis can be very emotionally draining for team members.  This is particularly true for employees who may also have low emotional stability.  Team members have to expend energy and emotional resources to navigate their leader’s fluctuating emotions.  While team members with high emotional stability are likely to emerge unscathed from this experience, at least for a while, those with low emotional stability may not have the resources to cope, causing performance and retention issues.


Low emotional stability leaders are more likely to experience a range of negative emotions affecting decision making, communication and working relationships.  These negative emotions may trickle down to team members through the leader’s communication and decision making.  Low emotional stability team members do not have the resilience or strategies that can provide a buffer against these emotions. Therefore, they are much more likely to experience emotional exhaustion as they attempt to navigate this minefield of emotions.


On the other hand, leaders that have developed high emotional stability actually become the buffer against emotional exhaustion for their low emotional stability team members.  Their stability, clear decision making, and confident communications mitigated against the fluctuating emotions for these employees, providing a stable environment to work.  This buffer can actually be enhanced with increased interactions between the employee and their emotionally stable leader.


We can now see the benefits of leaders developing high emotional stability.  There are clear benefits for both the leader and the team.  Fortunately, it is the same for all the skills I am addressing in this series of Resilient Leadership articles – emotional stability is a skill you can learn, develop and practice.


9 Tips to Develop Your Emotional Stability

By consistently practicing these actions, you can gradually enhance your emotional stability as a leader, fostering a positive work environment and improving your overall effectiveness in leadership roles.


  1. Know where your emotions come from

The emotionally stable leader still has emotions.  The difference is that he knows where his emotions arise from, what effect they have on his character and how to express them healthily and effectively.  He knows how to make his emotions work for him rather than against him.


Self-awareness is a foundational aspect of emotional stability. It involves being mindful of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through practices such as mindfulness meditation and journaling, you can enhance your self-awareness. By understanding your triggers and emotional patterns, you can proactively manage your responses, fostering a sense of calm and stability.


  1. Understand the role of emotions

Emotions are very personal.  Understanding and expressing emotions effectively requires the right environment.  The pressured leadership role does not always provide that environment.


Emotions are based on fleeting events and moments.  While these might be good for energising the mind, they are not good for making clear, informed and rational decisions.  If the leader allows his mind to be distorted by fluctuating emotional strain, he will find it more difficult to achieve his goal of resilient leadership and deal effectively with the challenges at these higher levels of leadership performance.


The leader needs to discern between what the causes of emotions are and form strategies to keep them distinct from the rational mind.  He also needs to learn how to keep the rational mind engaged and developed.  He can then retain the benefits of emotional energy to keep his mind engaged but also giving his emotions the perspective they deserve.


  1. Get off the roller-coaster

Emotions feel important and call for our attention.  They are loud, demanding and difficult to ignore.  Some people love the emotional charge of leadership, but the leader needs to learn that his emotions are the product of his experience, such as the leadership action he is taking in a given situation.  His emotions are not the experience itself, though we can be forgiven for making that mistake on occasion.


The leader must focus on taking the right actions for the right reasons, rather than for the emotions that may result.  If he finds himself taking actions based on either positive or negative emotions, then he must step back for a clearer view because the emotions are distorting the picture through stress levels and reaction.


The leader must learn to give higher priority to other attributes like reason and intellect by building mental toughness through developing high levels of focus, patience and control (other learnable skills in this series).


  1. Learn how to use healthy emotions

Even the most resilient leader has emotions.  The key is not to have them in an unhealthy state.  Fluctuating emotions are an indication of a mind that is underdeveloped.  So is an absence of emotions.  Neither are in the leader’s control.


Resilience is to have your emotions in context and proportion so they accurately express your mental state.  Healthy emotions are expressions, not reactions.  Used to express his mental state, the leader can now control his emotions as they are given the proportion they deserve and no longer shout louder than his other mental faculties.


Healthy emotions are expressed in the context of when they arise, connected to what causes them, so they do not become distorted.


  1. Embrace emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence lies at the core of emotional stability.  The leader’s ability to recognise, understand and manage his own emotions as well as empathising with the emotions of others.


To become emotionally stable, the leader must develop his emotional intelligence.  By doing this, he will gain a better grasp of his emotions and reactions, allowing him to respond thoughtfully rather than impulsively in challenging situations.


  1. Practice stress management

Resilient leaders are adept at managing stress, a skill closely linked to emotional stability and one that many people reading this will have learned at some point.


It’s now time to put it into practice!


Engage in stress relieving activities.  This will be an individual choice, so feel free to pick the activity that works for you.  For some it might be taking exercise, or yoga, or simply hobbies that bring you joy.  Personally, I like to go for a hike in the mountains near where I live or take a shorter walk when time doesn’t allow for a full hike.


These activities not only alleviate stress but also promote emotional balance, enabling you to approach challenges with a clear mind and steady emotions.


  1. Cultivate positive relationships

Emotions are most evident in relationships so it is important that the leader reflects on his relationships at work.


The first step is to cultivate healthy relationships wherever possible.  The resilient leader knows that healthy relationships provide support and inspiration.  Nurture positive relationships through empathetic listening skills, creating a foundation of trust and emotional stability within the team.


Relationships change.  That is a simple fact of life and the resilient leader knows that changing relationships throw up all sorts of emotions.  This is the second step in this tip: learn how to channel these emotions effectively so they can fuel performance.  This takes detachment, perspective, tenacity and fortitude (all learnable skills within this resilience series of articles).


  1. Assume positive intent

Intention is a very powerful thing that elicits strong emotional responses.  How often do we assume the person we are about to interact with has negative intentions?  This assumption limits the potential of the interaction from the very start.


The resilient leader commits to believing that information or feedback are backed by good intentions.  This makes it easier to promote understanding, practice compassion and build positive relationships.


Assuming positive intent limits judgement so that the resilient leader can ask positive questions, seek clarity and embrace other perspectives.


  1. Cultivate a growth mindset

Adopting a growth mindset is a great way to develop emotional stability as it means believing that your abilities and intelligence can be developed with dedication and hard work.


Embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than seeing them as threats.  Leaders with a growth mindset are more resilient in the face of setbacks.  By reframing challenges as learning experiences, the resilient leader can maintain emotional stability even in very difficult situations, inspiring confidence in your team (I provide an example where I turned a very challenging situation into a learning experience in my previous article).


By consistently practicing these actions, you can gradually enhance your emotional stability as a leader, fostering a positive work environment and improving your overall effectiveness in leadership roles.


What are you prepared to do to develop your emotional stability?

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