June 18, 2019

Emotional intelligence: A ‘must’ for outstanding leadership

By: Elizabeth Wood

Psychologists and social scientists developed the concept of emotional intelligence decades ago, and research since then has supported it as a key component of leadership success.

Kandi Wiens, EdD, MBA

“Thirty plus years’ worth of research shows that having leadership skills is not enough to be an effective leader,” says Kandi Wiens, EdD, MBA. “What distinguishes a good leader from an exceptional leader is emotional and social intelligence.”

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Anyone seeking a deeper understanding of emotional intelligence (EI) and how to incorporate it into everyday life will find answers during a keynote address by Dr Wiens at the 2019 OR Manager Conference in New Orleans. On Thursday, September 19, she will present “Run Your Emotions, Don’t Let Them Run You: Leading with Emotional Intelligence.”

Dr Wiens is a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in the PennCLO Executive Doctoral program and the Penn Master’s in Medical Education program. She is also an organizational change consultant, executive coach, speaker, researcher, and Harvard Business Review contributor.


What is EI?

“There are many different models for EI,” Dr Wiens told OR Manager. “I follow a model developed by Daniel Goleman, Annie McKee, and Richard Boyatzis that categorizes emotional and social intelligence into four major competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.”

She defines these competencies as follows:

• Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and understand feelings and emotions, understand what triggers our stress, and accurately assess our strengths and weaknesses. It also allows us to recognize when and why we resist change.

• Self-management helps us control our impulses when someone or something triggers our emotions, and manage our responses to change. It allows us to see things from a different perspective.

• Social awareness is our ability to understand and navigate the political dynamics in an organization and the motivations of others. It allows us to understand where other people are coming from and be empathetic.

• Relationship management is about using our social skills to build healthy relationships and inspire others to work together effectively.

“Within each competency there are very specific behaviors,” Dr Wiens says. “This approach is competency based, which means we have the ability to learn EI and develop these skills over time.”


EI in the OR

In the OR environment, where tensions often run high, using EI can be an especially powerful way to de-escalate conflict and keep people on track. It’s also highly effective for managing stress and preventing burnout, Dr Wiens says.

“In any healthcare environment, there’s a lot of stress stemming from so much change, for example, in reimbursement and consolidation of healthcare practices,” Dr Wiens says. She has worked with several physician leadership groups, helping them to incorporate EI practices that overcome resistance to change. In one organization where physicians saw changes as unnecessary, she says, she walked them through scenarios to see things from different perspectives—for example, how those changes might affect a patient or the person making financial decisions.

“When people are on the receiving end of a change they don’t like, one of the most common feelings is a lack of control,” Dr Wiens says. “We have to remind ourselves that we always have control of our attitudes. It’s called emotion-focused coping—learning what your emotional triggers are and how to deal with them more effectively.”

Another major source of stress comes from conflict situations, which are all too common in the OR. Through recent work, Dr Wiens has seen the benefits of EI training for chief medical officers (CMOs). “A majority of their stress comes from straddling clinical and administrative duties, and having conflict with other people,” she says—not unlike the stress experienced by OR nurse leaders.

In one case, she says, a CMO shared an example of how he put EI into practice. The CMO and another physician were arguing about something in front of others, and he recognized his emotions being triggered into a “fight or flight” type of response. He wanted to lash out, but he stopped himself, and instead invited the physician to his office for a private conversation. Although his colleague was still very angry, the CMO managed to control his impulse to “fight back.” He simply listened, which was a way to show empathy and de-escalate the situation. The CMO later said that reacting this way actually felt good and reminded him that he could learn from others.


Time and patience pay off

“Developing EI takes time, practice, and patience; this is life’s work,” Dr Wiens says. “The good news is that it can be learned. The challenging thing is that it can create more stress as we’re learning because it can feel uncomfortable to try to break habits. However, research shows that people learn more when they’re under a little bit of stress and out of their comfort zones.”

Leaders willing to take this leap of faith will likely land in a better place once they’re able to develop their EI competencies and apply them consistently.

To learn more or to register for the conference, visit https://2019.ormanagerconference.com. ✥

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