Why do imaging leaders need to develop emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ) has increasingly gained popularity as a trait vital to success in any profession. EQ can be defined as "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions." Some scholars describe it as “EQ is to heart what IQ is to brain.”

Whatever the definition, EQ cannot be ignored. It accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs. Research has shown that 90 percent of top performers are high in EQ. There is also a link between EQ and earnings; people with high EQs make an average of $29,000 more per year than those with low EQs.

Many theorists contend that successful healthcare leaders are those who lead with the heart and possess the soft skills needed to positively influence others. These soft skills include being empathetic to their employees, enhancing group and individual relationships and recognizing the individual contributions of each member of the healthcare team. Successful leaders are proficient at analyzing the emotional side of issues, anticipating how people will react and creating programs that will assist with the emotional side of work-related issues.

Overall, the imaging profession requires a high degree of emotional labor. Emotional labor can be defined as, “the process of regulating both feelings and expressions to achieve organizational goals or expectations.” Strictly speaking, radiologic technologists are expected to suppress their own negative emotions in order to display positive emotions towards their patients. For example, if a patient is non-cooperative, the radiologic technologist must use the emotional labor skill defined as “deep acting” to suppress his or her own negative feeling in order to display a positive emotion toward the patient.

In order for the radiology leader to promote a culture based on delivering the best care possible to patients and to create staff harmony, he or she must be conscientious of employees’ emotions. If an imaging leader can identify the emotions of others; use these emotions in the thought process; understand, analyze and manage emotions, he or she is deemed an emotionally intelligent leader. So how can imaging leaders effectively increase their EQ? There are a variety of ways to accomplish this task:

  • Engage in positive visualization. Athletes have been using this technique for years. They visualize a particularly challenging task in their sport and then create a clear mental image of performing at a peak level. Leaders should consider utilizing this technique when dealing with a difficult encounter with an employee. Rehearsing what to say ahead of time and projecting a clear and positive image of this encounter will help create a more productive encounter.
  • Meditate daily. Numerous types of meditation exist that can help a radiology leader gain awareness of how emotions affect their particular behavior. For example, in preparation for a difficult meeting, leaders can take a few moments to take in slow abdominal breaths or take a quick walk to ease some tension. This will help the leader quiet his or her mind so he or she can think more clearly.
  • Think before acting. The emotional brain receives stimuli quicker than the rational brain. Many times leaders rant and rave beforethinking about how to handle a situation in a dignified manner. It is recommended that before imaging leaders quickly react to an emotional situation, they delay their response so the rational brain can strategize the best way to handle a problem.

Greek philosopher Aristotle once stated, “Anybody can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.” Aristotle believed the ultimate goal for humanity was to improve relationships to solve problems. A leader high in EQ can accomplish this monumental quest.

About the author: Jason Scott, MBA CRA RT(R)(MR) is director, imaging/cardiac diagnostics/pulmonary/neurodiagnostics/wound care at Witham Health Services in Lebanon, Ind. His presentation "How Imaging Leaders Can Increase Their Emotional Intelligence" is scheduled for Sunday, July 28, at 4:30 during the annual meeting of the Association for Medical Imaging Management.