What Makes A Great Leader: Emotional Maturity

Emotional maturity may be defined as, “the balance between the brain and the emotions, between the inner and outer world of the individual”. Emotional maturity is an essential aspect in the development of the individual and progresses with us as we age. It has also been described as the ability to remain cool under pressure, using cognitive rather than emotional processes whilst upholding our values and beliefs and displaying a sense of humor, initiative, perseverance, and knowledge.

Different emotions according to emotional maturity

A distinction between emotional maturity and emotional intelligence has to be made. Emotional intelligence may be described as the ability to perceive, understand, and regulate our own or another person’s emotions. However, emotional intelligence is actually the ability to intelligently analyze and identify emotions – without the need to regulate or manage them. Emotional intelligence is thus an enabler that facilitates emotional maturity.

Proper emotional intelligence followed by strong emotional maturity are the two basic factors that contribute to one’s ability to implement leadership techniques. By being emotionally mature, individuals can capitalize on their strengths and can overcome their weaknesses, achieving success. Self-awareness in leaders means being able to not only identify the rationale of your thoughts but also the feelings generated by them and their origin. Emotional maturity is thus an important building block contributing to leadership efficacy.


Great leaders are able to demonstrate great degrees of mindfulness, where mindfulness is the ability to reflect on our behavior, thoughts, and feelings, not just in the past but at the moment. For example, if we find ourselves in a situation where we feel our emotions are taking over – anger, sadness, etc., the first step to mindfulness is the ability to pause and acknowledge our emotions. The next step is to then recognize the origin of the emotion. Once we do this, we can deal with that emotion rationally and logically.

Mindfulness leading to emotional maturity

As with many of these elements of self-leadership, by understanding through mindfulness and self-awareness is what drives us and how we can improve, these elements can support us in becoming the best versions of ourselves.

What Increases Your Emotional Maturity?

Mature Expression

A mature expression is essentially how a person fully demonsrates what they think and feel on matters of concern to them, yet they do so with both courage and consideration. However, this must be balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others. In addition, by applying mindfulness first, we must identify rational and healthy emotions to express and ensure they are right for the moment.

Mature expression enabling emotional maturity

Furthermore, leaders must keep in mind the healthy and appropriate display of emotion is normal. Team members will often respect leaders more if they witness a mature expression of emotion as it humanizes the leader and improves trust amongst the group, leading to more effective leadership and performance. Conversely, immature expression of emotion leads to a loss of respect for the leader and could flare up tensions if a particular team member was on the receiving end of the emotion.

Other enablers that may increase your emotional maturity include good anger and stress-management, self-control, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

What Decreases Your Emotional Maturity?


The need to satisfy one’s ego is a stumbling block that many people face. Our ego causes us to seek constant recognition and validation from our peers and the world. It is natural for a human being to want to feel important. As everyone has an internal ego that needs to be constantly fed, it’s essentially a breeding pool for conflict between people. The recognition of the ego is the leading cause of strife in humanity. Although we all deserve attention to function properly as human beings, we must understand that the world does not revolve around us.

Despite our ego constantly needing validation and attention, it is recommended to focus on the recognition and existence of our ego, reduce external factors around us that cause us to demand greater ego validation, and applying mindfulness to ground our ego. A healthy personality is required to ensure that one’s ego remains a part of a unified and coherent self at all times.

Ego, a stumbling block for emotional maturity

Ego defence is what contributes to emotional immaturity when we believe we deserve something and justify the emotion connected to it. Connected to mature expression, we need to identify if the emotions we are experiencing are not only justified but also consider the thoughts and feelings of others. My suggestion to leaders struggling with ego validation is encouraging close friends and colleagues to provide honest feedback around the leader’s ego conditioning and grounding. As we are sometimes blind to ego defence or gratification, it helps to have this identified so that we may improve our behaviour.

Other stumbling blocks that may reduce your emotional maturity include, depression, poor anger management, short temper, and powerlessness.


Strong emotional maturity is necessary for a great leader. Great leaders can monitor and be mindful of their emotions as they perform their roles and guide their teams towards success. Emotions are common, but their use is not for self-validation and ego-stroking but instead balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others with courage as their catalysts.

How Can I Determine My Emotional Maturity?

Emotional maturity is still a fairly new concept that is separate from emotional intelligence and many people and organizations still do not differentiate between the two. As a result, there are no emotional maturity tests available that I have stumbled upon. However, as emotional intelligence is an enabler for good emotional maturity, it may be a good starting point on your journey to becoming an emotionally mature leader. I recommend this test from the Institute of Health and Human Potential.

Be sure to check out the other elements of a great leader in The Raven Roost blog series.

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