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Nursing Leaders and Emotional Intelligence

Diana Bustamante

Capella University

Nursing Leadership and Management

BSN 4012

Dr. Tina Turner

July 26, 2015

Nurse leaders set the tone in regards to communicating with each other, with patients and families, and with doctors and other members of the health care team. It is impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator. Communication is how a leader builds trust and relationships. Soft skills are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people” ( . These skills include teamwork, decision making, and critical thinking skills; and they are essential components of emotional intelligence (EI). EI is “a set of abilities that can be learned, improved, and taught to others” (Codier, 2012). EI is made up of five basic abilities: self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills EI is the ability of a person to recognize their feelings and those of others, ability to motivate yourself, and ability to manage emotions well in yourself and in your relationships (Kelly and Tazbir, 2014).

As nurses, we are constantly receiving training on ways to improve our clinical skills and performance. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about soft skills. In one of my past jobs I was in charge of the care plan meeting. I recall a specific meeting where the Director of Nursing (DON) was going through personal issues and had been acting very rude and unprofessional. During this meeting one of the patient’s families had a complaint regarding the care that was being provided to his mother. He was very upset and was yelling during the meeting. The DON started yelling back at the family member and the meeting was turning into a big argument. I believe that as a DON you must lead your nurses by example and not allow personal life situations and feeling affect your work. Instead of reacting in the way she did, she should have asked questions to try and find out why the patient’s son was unhappy and so upset. After everyone calmed down the DON stormed out of the room and left the team with the family member in a very unconformable situation.

As an interdisciplinary team, we decided to continue with the meeting to try and find the reason why this family member was so dissatisfied with the care. After speaking with the patient’s son, we found out that his mom had been telling him that they were not feeding her; which was not true because the patient did not have any weight loss and all the documentation showed that she was eating 75-100% of her meals. This patient had recently been diagnosed with dementia and her son was not able to recognize some of the symptoms because no one had educated him about disease process and what to expect. The interdisciplinary team and the patient’s son were able to come to an agreement that we will call him everyday to report the percentage of meals consumed by the patient and also education was provided by the nurse regarding signs and symptoms of dementia and disease process. In this case, the interdisciplinary team used the democratic leadership style and it showed to be an effective way to deal with the issue at hand. Democratic leadership encourages open communication, and includes team members in the decision-making process (Frandsen, 2014). Nurse leaders who lack emotional intelligence must be identified and corrective measures put into place. Offering educational programs for nurse leader may help to solve this issue.

An emotionally intelligent leader is aware of their feelings as they emerge, understands them accurately, and is able to deal with a situation regardless of his/her emotions. If emotions are not identified correctly, it is possible that a particular nursing intervention may be not only inappropriate, but even harmful (Codier, 2012). Soft skills affect not only the employer and employee but other interdisciplinary team members as well as patients and families. Therefore, it is vital that nursing leaders mentor and create work environments that encourage nurses to develop soft skills, which will enhance the use of both teamwork and collaboration and lead to the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes. Leaders also need to ensure that they, as well as their nurses, develop and possess soft skills to provide safe and competent patient care. “Nurse leaders should role model and use soft skills effectively in every day nursing practice in front of the nursing staff so that staff see leaders leading by example” (Kroning, 2015).


Codier, E. (2012). Emotional intelligence: Why talking transforms nursing care. Retrieved from:

Frandsen, B. (2014). 6 leadership styles- the pros and cons for nurse leaders. Retrieved from:

Kelly, P. & Tazbir, J. (2014). Essentials of nursing leadership and management (3rd ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar.

Kroning, M. (2015). Fostering soft skills is a must for nurse leaders. Retrieved from:

Oxford Dictionary (n.d). Soft skills. Retrieved from:


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