Five Practical Steps to More Emotionally Healthy Leadership

“So, I know I need to be more self aware and have more self management, but how?

What good is it if I have social awareness if I don’t know how to start and build healthy relationships? If it doesn’t help me find and improve my relationships right now, I don’t want to waste my time.”

Fortunately, Daniel Goleman addresses this concern in his book, Primal Leadership. His answer is that we must make “Five Discoveries” to practically apply the principles of Emotional Intelligence in our Leadership effectiveness:

Just like physical exercise at the gym, he says we must:

  • Discover your “ideal”. Who do you want to be? (Ideal self in this situation)
  • Discover your “real”. Who are you right now? (Awareness of current self)
  • Discover your “agenda”: Building on strengths, “close the gap” between “ideal” and “real” self. What do you need to do to move closer to “ideal”?
  • Discover your “experience”: Take action practicing new behavior, thoughts and feelings associated with the “ideal”.
  • Discover “trust”: Develop trusting relationships to help you grow


For example, to grow in your ability to manage emotions like anger…

  • Describe what it would look like in an ideal situation. (“Ideally, I would speak calmly, but firmly to my coworker when he make a mistake. I will respond with empathy, trying to see it from his perspective, then, later, communicate my expectations and my emotions in a respectful way.”)
  • Describe what the “real” situation looks like. (“When my coworker made a mistake today, I got angry and threw the paper back at him in front of everyone because I wanted to teach a lesson not to do it again.”)
  • Compare the two descriptions and consider ways to actually plan beforehand for situations that might make you angry in the future. (“I responded to my anger by a physical outburst, next time I would like to speak calmly and control my anger. I can practice deep breathing and dialogue that is appropriate for frustrating situations.”)
  • Practice deep breathing and possible conversation on a regular basis.
  • Find a partner to practice with and keep you accountable.

We train our bodies through physical fitness exercises, we train our minds by academic disciplines.  We also need to train our emotions to respond to our will in a healthy way.  Self awareness of your emotions and practicing healthy responses, will help you grow your Emotional Intelligence and transformational leadership.


Written by: Andrew MacCoy

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