The Emotional Doctor
05 September 2013
Doctors who manage their emotions effectively, make better leaders.
We assume Doctors are ‘natural’ leaders. But there’s no real training for it in medical education or specialty training programmes and people are expected to evolve their leadership skills naturally. For something so important, why is it left to chance?I think everyone needs help and guidance on developing leadership skills; it improves your working relationships and can have a big impact on how you can make things better. Firstly it’s important to make the distinction between management and leadership. Management is the ways in which we organise ourselves and responsibilities whilst keeping productive. Leadership is the way in which we deal with competitiveness, volatility, uncertainty and conflict in the pursuit of strategic objectives. It involves engaging and inspiring others and gaining their trust at times of change or risk. All of these things are highly emotive subjects and good leadership comes from managing your emotions and reading others’. Great leaders are known by their capacity to connect; be courageous; walk their own talk; inspire others to action; and be worth following. And the most emotionally influential part of your body is your amygdala. This is the part of your limbic system that assigns emotions to every piece of data that passes through your mind - before it even reaches your cortex. It will assign one of the following 8 emotions to any thought. Fear, Anger, Disgust, Shame, Sadness - all defensive / escape emotions Surprise – potentiating emotion Love, Trust - both attachment / engagement emotions For survival purposes, there are more defensive emotions that attachment ones, which means that most of us have a propensity to default to the defensive. So it’s easy to see why there is often a combative culture between colleagues and management in the stressful and increasingly pressured clinical environment. The alarming speed a which your amygdala assigns emotions means that it can be very difficult to intercept feelings which are defensively unhelpful. So assisting people to read their own emotions and those of others, to encourage more rational and measured responses is a crucial part of leadership development. I believe Doctors deserve to have access to this.
We are powered by an emotional brain and its job is to forge relationships and establish intelligent emotions…We need to raise our awareness of how we refine emotions/feelings into judgement, because feelings are the data on which judgements are made.” Professor Paul Brown**Professor Paul Brown is a consulting clinical and organisational psychologist and Head of the Psychology and Applied Neuroscience Unit of the National Science Council with the Prime Ministeris Office of Lao PDR.