“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.”  

-Dale Carnegie

Few individuals have the drive and persistence necessary to become a healthcare professional, but more difficult yet, is the journey to becoming a successful leader in this demanding field. 

Unfortunately, for many in the industry, medical school never taught them the skills of emotional intelligence that are vital to being both a great doctor and a strong leader. I’d like to talk about how empathy, interpersonal skills, and self-awareness provide aspiring healthcare leaders with the emotional intelligence they need to succeed with both patients and colleagues. 

1. Empathy

Thinking logically and taking emotions out of the job is sometimes the easiest thing to do as a doctor or nurse while dealing with serious medical situations. In fact, a research study in 2011 showed that of 800 hospitalized patients, only 53% thought their doctors or nurses were caring or empathetic, revealing a key shortcoming of emotional intelligence in medical professionals. 

While a logical focus is necessary in many high-pressure situations, a sensitive and understanding approach to patient care is also vital to success in the medical industry. Demonstrating emotional intelligence through empathy is key to creating trust with patients and ultimately obtaining high scores in client satisfaction. Showing empathy for patients and their families is the secret ingredient they don’t teach you in medical school that will set you apart from the pack. 

2. Interpersonal Skills

In addition to empathy, I teach that strong interpersonal skills are important in developing relationships both inside and outside of the exam room. In order to become a successful leader, you must have followers. This means that you need strong relationships with a dynamic team of supportive and loyal colleagues.

Despite the highly competitive nature of the healthcare industry, it is crucial that professionals work to create positive bonds with peers and coworkers at all stages of their careers. At the end of the day, developing your interpersonal skills will put you at an advantage with client satisfaction as well as set you up for success in future leadership positions.

3. Self-Awareness 

Last but not least, is the importance of self-awareness and self-management. As I have previously mentioned, physicians tend to put their own emotions aside in favor of a diverted focus on logic. Self-awareness is all about recognizing the appropriate times to express empathy and exercise interpersonal skills. 

Managing your own emotions and having self-awareness is equally as important as being highly attuned to patients’ and colleagues’ feelings. Ultimately, the intense and high-stress environment of the healthcare industry means that to become a strong leader, you must have the ability to check-in with yourself without rose-colored glasses. Learning to be conscientious of these emotions will help you navigate challenges and lead your team with the highest level of honesty and success. 

About Dr. Wilkerson, PD, MDA. 

Do you want to develop and use your abilities to the fullest and better connect with and lead others? Coaching maximizes impact, and Dr. Wilkerson, PD, MDA, has more than 30 years of successful executive leadership coaching in the United States and internationally. 

As a licensed pharmacist, he is particularly passionate about helping develop effective leaders in the healthcare community. Dr. Wilkerson has coached and trained thousands of managers and leaders. He is a certified coach and member of the John Maxwell Leadership Team.

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