As women, we’re often the main caregivers in the family—caring for children, parents, siblings, extended family, and friends. Being a caregiver is also synonymous with nursing—the caring profession— and data indicate that women comprise about 88% of the nursing workforce (Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2016). Therefore, women’s leadership in health and health care impacts health outcomes for patients and society as a whole.
So, how does the caregiver role play out in leadership and influence how we show up in our daily walk? How is our leadership performance affected by the behavior we model?
Healthy, meaningful leadership requires emotional intelligence (EI), interpersonal communication, and self-care.
Earlier this year, I experienced the inevitable—losing a dearly beloved mother. With no playbook to prepare you for such a loss, each person expresses grief differently. I watched and experienced the various emotional styles, expressions, communication, and overall well-being and coping skills demonstrated across my family. Intelligence changes over time; it depends on education and environment, and it’s unique to each individual, but it’s also influenced by culture. While grief is part of life and emotions can only be managed and not controlled, I began thinking about the importance of EI in both my personal and professional life and the importance of self-care.
The four areas of EI—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management—were certainly tested after my mother’s death. Reflecting on EI in the middle of grief allowed me to mindfully process my own pain. When I returned to work, I watched for EI among my colleagues and peers and checked my own emotions as the grieving process continued. Being cognizant of your behavior and mind ful of your choices are key to leadership. Taking the time to exercise, eat right, get at least 7 hours of sleep, and being deliberate with your time and intentional with your words and actions are essential to self-care. Awareness of EI and the importance of managing emotions enabled me to embrace the many facets of loss in the family dynamic and prepared me to be a model for my team at work.
Leadership and EI
Cognitive psychologists popularized the concept of emotional competence in “thinking and feeling” and “personality and ability” and demonstrated the impact on job performance and leadership. Dan Goleman commercialized the term “emotional intelligence” with his book by the same name and helped advance the awareness of this important aspect of leadership acumen.
ANA Nursing Knowledge Center recently launched a leadership course, Emotional Intelligence Matters: Why It’s a Game Changer for Nurses by Estelle Codier, PhD, MSN, RN, a nurse-expert on EI. She covers the four operational definitions of EI (based on the Ability Model):
• Perceive emotions accurately in self and others.
• Use emotions to facilitate reasoning.
• Understand emotions in self and others.
• Manage emotions in self and others.
As a nurse, you can use EI to assess the patient and family dynamic and properly manage emotions that may surface in the form of anger, fear, or other adrenaline- inducing feelings that may trigger a false sense of urgency. Learn more about EI and use the opportunity to apply it to your own life, both personally and professionally.
For more information, visit the ANA Leadership Institute.
Donna Grande is vice president for Products & Services at ANA.