4 Habits of Psychologically Sophisticated Leaders

#1: They cultivate psychological safety

Nick Wignall
8 min readJun 4


Photo by Allef Vinicius

One of the most underrated aspects of great leadership is emotional competence — understanding how emotions work and being able to work with them in a healthy way.

Obviously, emotional competence is important for the leader’s individual wellbeing. But it’s also critical on an organizational level…

How a leader deals with difficult emotions sets the tone for how the organization as a whole deals with them.

While many believe emotions aren’t something that belongs at work, they’re living in denial.

Human beings feel emotions all the time, including at work. And sometimes those emotions are big and painful. To ignore that fact is foolish for anyone but deadly for leaders.

Good leaders accept this fact and strive to understand the emotional dynamics within themselves and their teams. And as a result, they are able to leverage that understanding to healthy and productive ends.

In the rest of this article, I’m going to break down four habits of emotionally savvy leaders.

1. They cultivate psychological safety

In 2012, Google collaborated with experts in organizational psychology and management to answer a big question…

What makes a great team at work?

In a rigorous study, they assessed nearly 200 teams across the globe on a wide range of factors and learned that the single best predictor of effective teams was psychological safety.

In a nutshell, psychological safety means that people feel safe to take risks and be daring with each other.

For example, on a team with high psychological safety, you would feel confident to suggest a new idea even though it’s at odds with the current line of thinking and even though you’re the most junior person on the team.

On the other hand, the hallmark of low psychological safety is when team members feel afraid to speak up and go against the grain, and instead, everyone conforms their opinions to the views of the dominant…



Nick Wignall

Psychologist and writer sharing practical advice for emotional health and well-being: https://thefriendlymind.com