Effective Nursing Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Monday, 9 November 2015

Kirsi Toivanen-Atilla, MSN, BSN, RN
----, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Current issues in healthcare such as nursing shortage and turnover, health reform, and quality of care have turned the focus to nursing leadership. Research has shown that the concept of emotional intelligence, as integrated in nursing, has positive effects on staff, patient and organizational outcomes. Nurse leaders are in a crucial position to promote positive staff outcomes, positive patient care outcomes, and eventually, positive organizational outcomes. It is important to research what makes effective nursing leadership, and perhaps even more importantly, how nurse leaders perceive effectiveness. The purpose of this study was to describe nurse leaders’ perceptions of effective nursing leadership, to discover the elements of effective nursing leadership, and to determine the role of emotional intelligence in nursing leadership as perceived by nurse leaders.  

The study used a qualitative research design. Data were collected by using a secured online questionnaire during September and October 2010. Data collected were analyzed by using Colaizzi’s Method of Data Analysis. The findings were examined through Goleman’s framework of emotional intelligence competencies.

The study group (N=20) consisted of female registered nurses in formal nursing leadership positions. Participants were recruited through a national organization for nurse leaders. Participants were members of the organization and they were located throughout the country.

This study found that emotional intelligence is considered as an element of effective nursing leadership. Moreover, it was found that effective nursing leadership is relationship-centered, and can be demonstrated through qualities such as communication and attentive listening. Also, an organization and its culture have a role in effective nursing leadership.

However, more nurse leader-focused research is needed since it can promote the establishment of evidence-based nursing leadership. Further, it would be beneficial for the future of nursing leadership to include formal emotional intelligence education in both BSN and MSN programs, and to emphasize emotional intelligence qualities already when selecting and hiring nurses and nurse leaders.

The study could be replicated by using triangulation with a more diverse study group. More detailed research regarding the needs of the target group should be conducted in order to design curriculum regarding emotional intelligence education. Furthermore, it would be good to continue researching reliable ways to measure the impact of effective nursing leadership on staff outcomes, patient outcomes and organizational outcomes, as well as the effects of organizational culture on nursing leadership performance.