Emotional Intelligence: 5 Desired Leadership Qualities

Emotional Intelligence: 5 Desired Leadership Qualities

Written by Judy Campbell, RN

Over the last two years, the pandemic tested leaders in all industries in their flexibility and resilience. While a leader can problem-solve, a high intelligence quotient (IQ) is not the only component of success. Emotional intelligence (EI), also known as emotional quotient (EQ), is at the core of being a high performer, decision-making, and time management. EI is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power of emotions. Research shows that EI accounts for nearly 90% of what sets high performers apart from others with similar backgrounds.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important for Leaders in Nursing?

Leaders must be able to understand how others feel, which plays an important role for nurses in building rapport with patients and being effective team players with colleagues. Nurses are known to practice compassion in decision-making, which results in out-of-the-box, creative problem-solving. EI is also a self-development concept, in which nurses can acknowledge, accept, and control one’s emotions.

5 Key Emotional Intelligence Skills


Empathy is the ability to know how others feel, consider other people’s needs, and seek to understand without judgment. Empathy requires taking a genuine interest in other people’s lives and circumstances. Empathetic nursing leaders can observe and interpret nonverbal cues – such as body language – and are willing to learn from others through active listening and asking open-ended questions.


Self-awareness is about having a firm understanding of oneself and one’s own needs. Leaders with a high degree of self-awareness tend to be confident, but also take personal responsibility for their actions. Emotionally intelligent leaders cultivate a supportive work environment by being honest and openly assessing themselves. A leader who is able to bring out the best of themselves, is more likely to bring out the best in their own teams. Nursing leaders are expected to develop and sustain effective teams, which involves transparency and resilience.

Social Skills

Social skills are the foundation of successful relationships and include effective communication and gracefully handling any negative reactions. Emotionally intelligent leaders can ensure that team members feel valued, can remedy a conflict or dispute, and can adjust accordingly to ensure clear messages are delivered.  

Conflict Management

When conflicts arise and cannot be avoided through mediation, leaders must be able to manage disputes effectively by finding fair solutions for everyone involved. Effective conflict management promotes motivated teams who can work together toward shared goals. There is a suggested framework that includes five conflict styles: avoidance, compromise, integration, being obligatory, and use of domination. When effectively managed, conflict can facilitate progress and improve trust and professional relationships at work, which can ultimately increase productivity and optimize outcomes. 


Emotionally intelligent leaders influence critical thinking and decision-making. This ensures high-quality patient care, while also delivering patient-centered care. Effective leaders are decisive after logically weighing all options and sorting through different viewpoints. Leaders that can make significant decisions help improve productivity, boost team morale, and increase profitability for their organization.

EI is blending the facts you learned in school with real-life experiences. It is a vital skill that leaders must develop, as it empowers them to effectively meet demands and expectations. Beyond patients, a nurse leader’s professional success is measured by empowering others and ongoing personal growth. 

About the Author

Judy Campbell has been a registered nurse since 2008 and works as a certified case manager. Judy rekindled her love for writing in grad school and wants to continue to cultivate her growth and entrepreneurial spirit as a writer.



A New Layered Model on Emotional Intelligence (nih.gov)


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