A systematic review of physician leadership and emotional intelligence

J Grad Med Educ. 2014 Mar;6(1):21-31. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-13-00012.1.


Objective: This review evaluates the current understanding of emotional intelligence (EI) and physician leadership, exploring key themes and areas for future research.

Literature search: We searched the literature using PubMed, Google Scholar, and Business Source Complete for articles published between 1990 and 2012. Search terms included physician and leadership, emotional intelligence, organizational behavior, and organizational development. All abstracts were reviewed. Full articles were evaluated if they addressed the connection between EI and physician leadership. Articles were included if they focused on physicians or physicians-in-training and discussed interventions or recommendations.

Appraisal and synthesis: We assessed articles for conceptual rigor, study design, and measurement quality. A thematic analysis categorized the main themes and findings of the articles.

Results: The search produced 3713 abstracts, of which 437 full articles were read and 144 were included in this review. Three themes were identified: (1) EI is broadly endorsed as a leadership development strategy across providers and settings; (2) models of EI and leadership development practices vary widely; and (3) EI is considered relevant throughout medical education and practice. Limitations of the literature were that most reports were expert opinion or observational and studies used several different tools for measuring EI.

Conclusions: EI is widely endorsed as a component of curricula for developing physician leaders. Research comparing practice models and measurement tools will critically advance understanding about how to develop and nurture EI to enhance leadership skills in physicians throughout their careers.