Offering the latest news in health care quality and safety, the ISQua blog also features guest posts from the best and brightest in the industry.

By Hugh MacLeod Thursday. Mar 5, 2020

Emotional Intelligence, Inspiration and Creativity is Personal Featured

When it comes to emotional intelligence, inspiration, and creativity, people are not robots. People are a system (an individual) living and working within a human system (healthcare organization). Within yourself as a system, your interest, your fears, your various loyalties all interact and affect your behaviours and decisions. Your “human hard drive” has been shaped, and continues to be shaped, by your perspectives, perceptions, reactions, and expectations about quality. As your human hard drive swells with personal quality insights and understandings, you develop various coping mechanisms, biases, and habits to protect them (firewalls, anti-virus ‘software’ and security ‘programs’). Your human hard drive continuously validates and defines what you experience by establishing and then attaching, meaning (including truth and untruth) to the quality experience.


Living A Rich Life In Your Head


You share a basic dilemma and potential barrier with everybody else involved in the delivery of care. You like other people you work with live a rich life inside your head. People continually react, interpret, infer and provide meaning to their own quality experiences. People create, author, edit, produce, direct and act in their own internal drama. Others do not know or understand what goes on inside of us unless we tell them, but people often assume they do know what we are thinking or wanting—so they never ask.


Everyone you work with has rich lives inside their heads too. They also react, interpret, infer, and provide meaning to what happens to them. You are unable to decipher what percolates within them unless they share, but we often assume we know and fail to inquire. Everything flows from these simple facts, and they impact the science and art of healthcare quality improvement.


The Science and Art of Quality


The practice of medicine and healthcare more broadly involves harnessing the science of what we know with the art of applying that knowledge effectively within specific contexts. However, as our knowledge of healthcare science continues to expand, our understanding of how to most effectively use that knowledge to inspire and create– the “art” of healthcare – lags. The art of healthcare is founded on a holistic view of the patient as a unique individual who needs to be recognized as such. This is quite different from a reductive scientific view of the patient as a constellation of symptoms requiring treatment.


Viewing patients as more than the sum of their symptoms is not new. In 1904, pioneering Canadian physician Dr William Osler wrote: “It is much more important to know what type of patient has a disease than what sort of disease the patient has. If it was important at the turn of the 20th century to advise physicians to see, listen to and treat patients as individuals, it is even more important today; given our increased understanding of disease complexity, the pace of new drug development, the proliferation of new medical technologies and the demands of ever-changing clinical protocols.


My next post will focus on asking questions to elevate quality improvement.




Short, R. Learning In Relationship. Learning In Action Technologies Inc. 1998

MacLeod, H.B. Humanizing Leadership. FriesenPress, 2019.

Osler, W. “Aequanimitas.” Philadelphia: Blakistan. 1904.

MacLeod, H.B. ISQUA Podcast “Humanizing Quality Improvement,” January 2020.

ISQua Expert & Member, Hugh MacLeod retired as CEO of the Canadian Patient Institute in 2015. Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor of the School of Population & Public Health at the University of British Columbia.


Hugh has recently published his first book 'HUMANIZING LEADERSHIP: Reflection Fuels, People Matter, Relationships Make the Difference' which has been described as 'Candid, concise, and skillfully delivered leadership advice.'


Registration for ISQua's 37th International Conference in Florence, Italy (30 August - 2 September 2020) is now open, and discounted rates are available for Early Bird registrants, ISQua Members, applicants from low-income countries, and students. Please visit the conference webpage to find out more -


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We all have two vocations in health care – to do our job and to continually improve