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Emotional Intelligence Training for Effective Nurse Leadership

Nursing is both a challenging and rewarding profession. While nurse leaders may not deal directly with the stressors of providing bedside care, they also juggle multiple responsibilities and help resolve various conflicts regularly. Because of this, emotional intelligence training for nurse leaders is valuable in helping them lead healthcare teams and negotiate within the complex and ever-changing healthcare environment.

Nurses considering a career as a nurse leader can begin developing these skills through a Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Executive Leadership Concentration online program.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI), also known as emotional quotient (EQ), is the “ability to recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions and recognize, understand and positively influence the emotions of others.” It consists of three skills: “emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.”

Essentially, EI enables a person to understand how their behavior affects them and others positively and negatively.

How Does Emotional Intelligence Apply to Nursing?

Emotional intelligence plays a key role in helping individuals manage their emotions and respond better when under pressure. This includes situations when a person must:

  • Work without enough resources
  • Manage challenging or difficult relationships
  • Deal with change
  • Handle failures and problems
  • Receive and give feedback
  • Work with tight time constraints

Research also shows that emotions lead to thoughts, and the brain functions differently when a person is dealing with a highly charged emotional situation. This can result in decreased interpersonal skills, decreased ability to make decisions and even impairment of cognitive abilities. Because nurses rely on these every day in their work, emotional intelligence is essential for optimal functioning.

Emotional intelligence can also help nurses better deal with stress and handle situations that could be potentially overwhelming, like discussing difficult topics with others without hurting people’s feelings. Possessing these skills can improve personal and professional relationships resulting from better communication. EI is also essential in helping nurses provide better patient-centered care.

What Are the Benefits of Emotional Intelligence Training for Nurse Leaders?

Possessing EI skills provides nurse leaders with a significant advantage when it comes to leading others. Leaders with good EI skills can actively listen and communicate more effectively. They can also empathize with others and build stronger working relationships to influence others in positive ways.

Nurse leaders with EI are can also motivate and mentor staff, resolve conflict and encourage collaboration through “psychological safety” within the healthcare team. EI can help nurse leaders remain calm while working in a demanding environment, facilitating a more positive working culture amongst staff.

“Management skills, such as negotiating resources, building trust relationships, encouraging partnership development, and making evidence-based decisions, require a strong foundation of perceiving, using, understanding and managing feelings,” said healthcare researchers in one article on EI. When nurse leaders model strong EI skills, they can better perform managerial functions and develop these skills in staff.

Possessing strong EI skills enables nurse leaders to withstand the pressures of providing leadership while navigating a complex and demanding healthcare system. It also provides nurse leaders with the interpersonal and social skills required to influence others and develop a more positive work culture environment by encouraging EI skills in the staff they lead.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University’s Master of Science in Nursing Nurse Executive Leadership online program.


Institute for Health & Human Potential: What Is Emotional Intelligence?

National Center for Biotechnology Information: Nurse Managers’ Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership: A Review of the Current Evidence

Nursing Management: The Impact of an Emotional Intelligence Training Program on Transformational Leadership

Psychology Today: Emotional Intelligence

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