The importance of research skills, practical knowledge, and experience for developing leadership in the healthcare environment can hardly be disputed. However, emotional intelligence (EI) is a valuable social skill medical students, researchers, nurses, physicians, healthcare managers, and executives should possess to become effective leaders in their professional field. Many studies have indicated that EI measurements correlated with academic and professional success – including in the medical setting and workplace (Guseh, Chen & Johnson, 2015).
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An increasing interest in defining EI and its connection to leadership in the medical sphere resulted from the relation of these components to the new Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) core competencies of patient care, professionalism, interpersonal and communication skills (Guseh et al., 2015). Connecting with patients and colleagues, recognizing individual needs, managing stress and frustration, and finding solutions is impossible without an understanding of how emotions influence professionals and people around them, which makes EI one of the crucial components of medical leadership training. EI is a skill that can be learned, and the reason it should be learned is that the high level of EI translates into effective leadership, while poor EI skills can hinder it.
The connection between emotional intelligence and leadership
There is a large number of evidence suggesting a positive impact of the developed EI on the leadership qualities of the individuals. According to the recent studies, students who scored high on the managing-emotions subscale of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) described having less conflict in their relationships with both colleagues and superiors (Johnson, 2015). The results also clearly indicated that EI contributes to an individual’s ability to adapt socially, work more effectively in teams, perform better, and cope more effectively with stress and other forms of environmental pressure (Johnson, 2015). On the other hand, according to Imran, Aftab, Haider, & Farhat (2013), insufficient levels of EI are often associated with deviant behavior, poor relationships, inability to cope with stressful situations, and burnouts.
Given the positive association of better EI and competencies that make up effective leadership, EI training as an inevitable part of leadership development programs makes sense in order to enhance the desired outcome. Furthermore, the learning outcomes of such training programs implemented by the hospitals throughout the country, as well as by the American College of Physician Executives and the American Orthopaedic Association, confirmed the relation between EI level and effectiveness of leadership. The results included performance and career improvements from training intervention, connection to mentorship resources, and development of innovative business plans that helped to improve care delivery (Mintz & Stoller, 2014).
According to the results of the test on EI (12 out of 20), my level of EI is around average, and emotion recognition skills can be improved with practice. Considering the research data about the way effective leadership and EI are connected, my shortcomings can include higher levels of stress, lack of empathy, problematic relationships with patients and colleagues. However, emotion recognition is not the only component of EI. It also includes the ability to access and generate emotions, regulate them, and make a decision based on this information. These qualities are used to describe an effective leader.
EI is considered to be one of the aspects determining academic and professional success in a healthcare setting in part because of its relation to effective leadership. As shown in several studies, a high level of EI contributes to better collaboration, decision making, and stress handling skills, and improved interpersonal relations. Moreover, it proved to be useful in career advancement and work on improved care delivery. The low level of EI, in contrast, is associated with poorer performance and obstacles to effective leadership development.
Guseh, S. H., Chen, X. P., & Johnson, N. R. (2015). Can enriching emotional intelligence improve medical students’ proactivity and adaptability during OB/GYN clerkships? International Journal of Medical Education, 6, 208-212.
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Imran, N., Aftab, M. A., Haider, I. I., & Farhat, A. (2013). Educating tomorrow’s doctors: A cross-sectional survey of emotional intelligence and empathy in medical students of Lahore. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 29(3).
Johnson, D. R. (2015). Emotional intelligence is a crucial component of medical education. International Journal of Medical Education, 6, 179-183.
Mintz, L. J., & Stoller, J. K. (2014). A systematic review of physician leadership and emotional intelligence. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 6(1), 21-31.