How’s your capacity to see beyond the surface level, to identify and understand what is being said beyond the spoken word, to sense the intent of the heart when the perceived spoken word and/or body language is confusing or unsettling? Fatigue, frustration, fear, fury – all these can lead to emotional reasoning, emotion-based perception →assumption → decision-making. Effective nurse leaders are aware that our emotional reasoning plays an integral role in our ability to make sound decisions during critical times.
What is Emotional Reasoning?
Have you heard of emotional reasoning? Emotional reasoning is a cognitive action producing a “truth” based on the emotion(s) being experienced. It can lead to a skewered or false, generally unfavorable, view of events. Has this ever happened to you at work? Your colleagues and fellow nurses are either short with you or unhelpful, or your manager or administrator abruptly asks you about an event or circumstance with an upset look on their face while you are rushing to get a PRN medication, a new IV bag, or another priority task.
In the heat of the moment, thoughts and emotions instantly flood over you, then uneasiness and anxiety about the possibility of a conflict ahead robbing you of whatever energy and peace of mind you’ve managed to muster for the day at work. Though this may be the immediate perception, allowing this to linger and the negative feeling to persist, can lead to emotional reasoning. Once the perception is made, an assumption follows, and the capacity for decision-making is based on your perception, which may not be a reality.
Emotional Reasoning in Nursing
Emotional reasoning is always lurking, especially when the twin vulnerabilities of fatigue and stress are at play, an everyday occurrence in the life of a busy nurse. Emotional reasoning creates opportunities for negative misperception, which can result in a negative force on a team, pulling energy away from teamwork unless steps are taken to pursue the facts and work out negative perceptions. The truth is that others may be in the same situation of opportunities for emotional reasoning. Have you ever heard, “they’re just reacting to each other’s reactions”? I see this happening often in health care. Is this the best we can do?
So what does emotional reasoning have to do with perceptions of a leader or being able to spot a great leader? A great leader may not have all the facts - any more than anyone else. I know from both sides that this is often the case. To avoid continued reacting to each other’s reactions, we can take the steps needed to break the cycle, clear the path for real communication, and send emotional reasoning out the door. Nurses know what a challenge this can be. In the work setting, we often keep our emotions and vulnerability with others under wraps to emotionally survive and stay on task. Our workloads are heavy, we have multiple difficult situations and people to deal with, day in and day out, and for many of us, leaders have not always been supportive. Our veneer hides multiple wounds from negative encounters with others generally occurring regularly. Many nurses would say they neither have the time nor the energy, to deal with these things, so new hurts simply get stuffed deeper down. However, effective nurses continually work toward developing their emotional intelligence and building strong leadership qualities.
Top 10 Qualities of Nurse Leaders
According to Indeed, a leading job search website, the top ten qualities demonstrated by effective nursing leadership are:
- Compassion and Empathy
- Critical Thinking
- Dedication to Excellence
- Collaboration and Team building
- Mentorship and Teaching
- Technology Proficiency
The leadership qualities above are critical for all nurses to develop and are taught by leaders in the nursing field from Ottawa University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program. Our expert instructors understand the importance of growth in professional knowledge while ensuring safe, effective patient care is at the forefront when it comes to teaching nurse competency skills and leadership.
Great Nurse Leaders
I have to ask…can you spot a great nurse leader? Do you know when you would see one? I’m concerned that we may not be able to due to all the stuffed hurts and wounds, things that have piled up and left us as a profession in a mess of emotional reasoning. This is a concern for all of us as nurses. All nurses are leaders, and all nurses have a leader, even those who hold a position reporting to a board. We need to view ourselves as empowered, seeking to identify and stay grounded in the truth, seeking excellence as leaders, growing in knowledge and skill, the basis of empowerment. How can we move ahead effectively as a hurting, wounded, downtrodden profession, without getting a handle on the trap of emotional reasoning with its potential to blind us to the liberating force of empowerment through true leadership?
I have a picture on my office wall, depicting a storm-battered lighthouse, standing alone illuminating the black billowing clouds and raging sea. Under the picture, it reads, “Leadership: The ultimate measure of leaders is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy” (Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, 2021). Yes, we have U.S. Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., to thank for this inspiring quote, among many others. He walked the talk, leading the way courageously – and effectively - in a turbulent and politically divisive time in U.S. history. Martin Luther King Jr’s leadership brought increased awareness of racial divides and inequities and resulted in lasting U.S. political change regarding civil rights for all. Nurse leaders must also be advocates for change.
Become a Nurse Leader at Ottawa University
There are challenges facing us as a profession in the days ahead. But we can be that bright light, courageous and effective nurse leaders. I want to encourage you – be that nurse, be that nurse leader. Equip and empower yourself, arm yourself with increased knowledge and skill as a nurse leader with Ottawa University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program.
Becoming an Influential Nurse Leader
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