University of South Florida

Emotional intelligence is key indicator of effective leadership

After more than a decade interviewing and admitting students based on their levels of emotional intelligence, Joann Farrell Quinn, PhD, MBA, has learned that many times the best students are those who show a high level of interest in developing stronger emotional intelligence.

Before the official first day for newest class of medical students, the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine hosts a one-week orientation for students in the program called  SELECT (Scholarly Excellence, Leadership Experiences, Collaborative Training).  SELECT students are admitted based on intellectual perspective, empathy, creativity, and passion to drive change in healthcare.  This group will spend their first two-years in Tampa, and finish medical school, professional development and leadership training at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Penn.

Dr. Quinn, associate professor in the Morsani College of Medicine and director of the SELECT Competency Assessment, has been part of the program since 2015 and has interviewed more than 60 students eager to take a coveted seat in an incoming class for USF Health’s medical school. The SELECT program prepares students to be physician leaders who can accelerate change in health care.  The program was built on the principle that students with high emotional intelligence are more likely to develop the skills needed to transform health care and improve the health of communities.   Such students tend to be more engaging, compassionate physicians who will connect deeply with their patients and their families and be more effective as team members and team leaders.

Joann Farrell Quinn, PhD, MBA, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine associate professor and director of the SELECT Competency Assessment.

Dr. Quinn is a nationally recognized expert in emotional intelligence and her team at MCOM uses a common assessment tool developed by Daniel Goleman, world-renowned journalist, psychiatrist and author, to measure the emotional intelligence of candidates.  She said the school uses this model because candidates are evaluated on whether they believe in what they do or say.

Emotional intelligence includes everything outside of cognitive intelligence. Cognitive intelligence is knowledge developed from existing information.   Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to manage their own emotions and understands the emotions of others.  According to Dr. Quinn, strong emotionally intelligent people will be more successful in leadership roles.

“Effective leaders can’t only develop professionally; they must also develop personally,” Dr. Quinn said.  “Leadership is truly a framework of your own social and emotional competencies.  You’re only as good as your understanding of what’s happening with yourself and others, your ability to manage yourself and your relationships.”

During the interview process for the SELECT program, prospective students are essentially asked to describe two scenarios: A time when they felt effective as a team member or leader, and a time when they didn’t.  This gives evaluators the opportunity to hear about what they said and did in various situations, often alluding to their competencies.   She understands that students come from a wide array of backgrounds and experiences.  However, she doesn’t whole-heartedly believe the best students are the ones who already display a high level of emotional intelligence.  She believes some of the best students are those who show a high level of interest in developing stronger emotional intelligence.

No other allopathic medical school in the country has a program like USF Health’s SELECT program. About 24 schools have leadership education and development training for medical students, Quinn explained.  Medical school curriculum leaders at MCOM collaborate regularly with other colleges to share ideas and best practices on how to deliver effective leadership development across all four years of medical school.  The goal is to continue to train and graduate more doctors with strong academic, social, and emotional competencies to drive change in the country’s health care system.

“This is a small number of schools and there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done,” she said. “We haven’t really explored what ‘leadership’ truly is as it pertains to physicians in leadership roles.  Leaders of medical schools must buy in to the concept of physician leadership training if we’re going affect positive change in the health care system.”

Photos below are from Prologue 2 and Summer Immersion. Prologue 2 is part of an orientation for first-year SELECT students.  Summer Immersion allows students to create an individualized learning experience that focuses on an area of the student’s interest and builds upon he basic principles of safety, quality, patient-centered care, and leadership.  The course takes place between the first and second year in Tampa, Lehigh Valley, other places in the country or internationally.  The experience results in a scholarly product that is shared with peers and faculty upon return to campus.  First-year medical students listened and learned from second-year students and they presented their scholarly work and spoke about their experience with SELECT.

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