The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Medical Leadership

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Medical Leadership

Several studies have found that all effective leaders have one essential feature—a high level of development of emotional intelligence. For medical professionals, the primary duty is the care and safety of a patient, often assumed to be only achieved through clinical competence. However, one of the most common complaints about doctors relates to poor communication and not clinical competence. It’s the combination of good clinical competence and emotional intelligence that will not only improve patient care but also job satisfaction.


Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and express emotions, assimilate emotions and thoughts, understand and explain emotions, and regulate emotions (your own and those of other people). There are 5 key components of emotional intelligence:

  1. self-awareness—the ability to understand one’s strengths and weaknesses, values, and motives.
  2. self-control—the ability to control or direct destructive impulses and emotions to a fruitful channel.
  3. motivation—the desire to work for the process itself.
  4. empathy—the ability to understand the emotional state of other people; and
  5. social skills—the ability to build and manage relationships with other people.

The emphasis on having insights into your own and others’ emotions that are described by models, help to explain why having high levels of emotional intelligence are so important. For example, assessing or discriminating patients’ emotions could potentially impact the quality of taking an accurate diagnosis.

A clinician could fail to understand a patient’s emotional reaction to prescribing treatments or lifestyle changes, and consequently, fail to prescribe alternatives that could potentially have a higher adoption success rate. Understanding emotions is a fundamental skill for any health professional and has the potential to increase patient care and satisfaction.

Increased emotional intelligence has also been shown to create better relationships between colleagues, with those with higher levels of emotional intelligence being able to spot signs of stress quicker. In one of our previous blogs, we spoke about the importance of building resilient teams by finding ways to support your staff.

Developing your emotional intelligence can help leaders spot emotional issues in their staff, like signs of burnout, more accurately and help intervene sooner. Improving your emotional intelligence is one of the best preventative measures leaders can take.

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