Emotional Health Levels and Leadership

The way to explain this is to
start in the middle and then describe
the differences we see as we move
up and down from there. Later we’ll
provide a little detail on each level.
Let’s take a hypothetical person who is
centred at level 5 on this diagram (we
would say this person has an emotional health level of 5).

This is the level
which would be represented by the
population in general.
Our person at this level will exhibit a
range of behaviors in response to the
various situations he or she confronts
every day. Notionally, many of their
responses will be automated – ‘below
the line’ responses of blame, denial
and justification. The other behaviours
will still tend to be less than effective,
coming from “self-talk” that keeps our
person at level 5 “feeling ok.”
What this means in terms of our
diagram is that this person is about
half-way up the ‘self-centredness’
pyramid: they display quite a degree
of self-centredness, but it could be
worse. They are also about half-way
down the ‘behavioural freedom’
inverse pyramid: sometimes they have
the emotional freedom to choose their
response to a situation (i.e. we might
say they ‘think before they act’);

Most of the time they don’t have this
freedom; (their response is
automatic). Again, there is room to
improve, but it could be quite a lot
As our diagram illustrates, the top and
bottom of the range of
emotional health levels represent
extremes in self-centredness and
behavioural freedom.

A person with an extremely low level
of emotional health (level 9) will display
automated, ‘below the line’ responses
to virtually every situation they
encounter. They are self-centred basically all the
time; they have little or no behavioural
freedom. They are never truly ‘present’.
People at this level are often fixated,
delusional and self-destructive.
The person with a very high level of
emotional health (level 1) is completely
open, well balanced and liberated from
any degree of self-centredness. With
complete behavioural freedom, they
are able to make mindful decisions
about virtually every situation they
encounter and take personal
responsibility (‘above the line’) for their
responses. People like this almost
define the term ‘presence’ with their clarity of thought.

They are able to
access the highest of qualities, such
as compassion and deep caring, with

They lead by the highest of
examples in all aspects of their lives.

People with these extremes of
emotional health are rare – at both
ends. As mentioned, most people
would operate at or around level 5.
Only with a lot of dedication do we find
people moving to level 3 or above.
For most of us, our goal would be to
increase our emotional health level
over time, regardless of where we are
starting. Those who move up the
emotional health levels over time are
better able to see other perspectives
of the world they live in; they start to
understand the assumptions that their
own world view is built on.

As they do this, they better appreciate that
the coping strategies and defense
mechanisms they have been using are
holding back their personal growth.
More and more, they have the
presence to ‘observe’ their own
behaviours and responses,
identifying areas of behaviour that
could be improved and consciously
planning to make these improvements.
In terms of the personal responsibility,
moving up the emotional health levels means spending more
time ‘above the line’, and less time
below it.

Almost by definition, a good leader
needs to display a minimum level of
self-centredness (after all, it’s about
the organization, not themselves) and
maximum behavioural freedom (in
order to make considered decisions
rather than automatic or knee-jerk

Leaders are expected to be both compassionate and caring as well as decisive and strong: doing this requires a high level of emotional health.

We find that leaders from Level 4 and above drive positive emotions in their workplace; they create resonance by inspiring others through the creation of a genuinely shared vision, then coaching them to be all that they can be as they work towards achieving that vision.

BH/Adapted/Global Leadership Foundation

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