You’ve likely experienced many of the signs of an unhealthy leader – the micromanagement, the lashing out, the lack of support and the constantly moving goalposts. Finding a healthy leader in professional spaces, corporations and nonprofit organizations can seem like finding a needle in a haystack.

With nearly 40% of Black women leaving workplaces due to them feeling unsafe, clearly there’s work to be done. The pressures, lack of support and microaggressions that Black women uniquely experience in the workplace can create the perfect storm that leads to work anxiety.

So how can Black women discern toxic workplaces and leaders? Here’s what to look for in an emotionally healthy leader in the workplace.

They Listen Intentionally 

Emotionally healthy leaders are leaders as much as they are listeners. They know when to step up and take charge, but they also know when to pull back and listen to their team. The worst type of leaders speak all the time and never let their teams get a word in. It might come across as if they speak just to be heard versus actually having valuable information or direction to share. 

Emotionally healthy leaders listen and ask questions. They understand and value the voices, opinions and ideas of their team.

They Lead With Empathy

Emotionally intelligent leaders lead with empathy. They know how to put themselves in other people’s shoes. They look for verbal and nonverbal cues. In addition to being in tune with others’ emotions, emotionally healthy leaders know how to acknowledge and respond to them – even if they do not agree.

They Communicate Clearly

A part of emotional intelligence is having strong social skills. Emotionally healthy leaders can communicate, not only charismatically, but also in a way that is clear and to the point. They can delineate goals and clear steps to reaching those goals that empower the employees on their team. Clearly communicating goals keeps your team motivated and helps them feel accomplished once they cross the finish line. 

They Model Work-Life Balance

Many leaders in managerial or senior level positions subscribe to the hustle lifestyle. Even influencers on social platforms like LinkedIn post about working on holidays and weekends. Yes, hard work is critical to success, but burnout should not be praised. 

Emotionally healthy leaders model work-life balance to their teams. They disconnect after work hours, and they utilize their PTO for vacations or simply just to take a mental health day. Modeling this behavior encourages employees to follow suit and set boundaries between work and their personal lives.

They Lead With Self-Awareness

Leaders should avoid veering into the 24/7 hustle and burnout culture because it makes them unaware of what is going on inside themselves. Emotionally healthy leaders are in tune with their physical bodies – whether they are fatigued or tired or if they have a headache or stomach ache. They are also in tune with their emotional health and they’re triggers. They can pinpoint when they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, disappointed and the causes for those emotions.

This ability of emotionally healthy leaders to be self-aware translates to their professional relationships. They are aware of the impact their words and actions have on others, which makes them strong leaders.