Leadership of change: Know thyself

By Carolyn Marino

I led a 100 year old successful school through a major change process of moving from single cell ways of working to team based collaboration. During this change process, I became acutely aware that the greater the emotional intelligence of my leadership team, who were driving the change, the better the team performance.

Now in my work as a Tārai Kura Ringa Whao, I support leadership teams to undertake their own change journeys. I am privileged to glean a broader understanding of what challenges leaders face in a range of change contexts, and recognise that this is both a personal and professional journey of growth and change. If you are leading a change process, perhaps the best starting point is to first ask yourself questions about your own leadership EQ. In this article I share some self reflection questions that I have found helpful for myself and others. 

Know thyself

While we require technical expertise and subject specific knowledge to fulfil our roles as educational leaders of change, high levels of interpersonal skill and awareness support leadership efforts to reduce resistance to change initiatives. They also minimise friction or a breakdown in relational trust and team effectiveness.

High levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) is a key ingredient in self reflective, effective leaders (Daniel Goleman). Knowing ourselves well, our strengths and areas of stretch, can support us to model for others in our organisations the intrapersonal and interpersonal qualities that can positively shape who we are as individuals. They can enhance our contributions as team players, and support the organisation to navigate through major change initiatives.

These six EQ competencies found in effective leaders  may be a useful starting place to reflect upon where you feel you are at with each competence. Here ‘effective’ is defined as those leaders others choose to ‘follow’ of their own free will.

How well do I know myself? — Image by: pixabay.com

A strength or stretch?

Self Awareness

  • Am I mindful about myself and my behaviour?
  • Am I self-aware and continually self-reflective?
  • Can I compromise and display flexibility in my thinking?
  • Do I give due consideration to and make changes because of the impact my actions may have on others?
  • Can I self-regulate under pressure?

Self Expression

  • Do I say what I mean and mean what I say?
  • Am I consistent and congruent?

Self Reliance

  • Am I consistently doing my research, and backing myself and my decision-making?
  • Am I a self-directed learner; am I reflective?
  • Do I share my wonderings, perceptions and vulnerabilities?
  • Do I actively pursue and grow opportunities to learn through networks, reading, dialogue?
  • Do I display a growth mindset?
  • Do I display an optimism to learn from mistakes and poor decisions?


  • Am I mindful of ‘other’ in my interactions?
  • Do I exhibit a growth mindset in the face of dissonance?
  • Do I prioritise time to talk through issues to understand diversity of viewpoints?
  • Do I respectfully listen, display openness to change and compromise? Can I move beyond the ‘personal’?

 A leader who knows themselves well recognises the power of TEAM, is skilled in team development, and has the ability to inspire and build active commitment in others for the joint work they are undertaking.