Efforts are ongoing to improve outcomes from cardiac arrest and medical emergencies. A promising quality improvement modality is use of non-technical skills (NTS) that aim to address human factors through improvements in performance of leadership, communication, situational awareness and decision-making. Originating in the airline industry, NTS training has been successfully introduced into anaesthesia, surgery, emergency medicine and other acute medical specialities. Some aspects of NTS have already achieved acceptance for cardiac arrest teams. Leadership skills are emphasised in advanced life support training and have shown favourable results when employed in simulated and clinical resuscitation scenarios. The application of NTS in medical emergency teams as part of a rapid response system attending medical emergencies is less certain; however, observations of simulations have also shown promise. This review highlights the potential benefits of NTS competency for cardiac arrest teams and, more importantly, medical emergency teams because of the diversity of clinical scenarios encountered. Discussion covers methods to assess and refine NTS and NTS training to optimise performance in the clinical environment. Increasing attention should be applied to yielding meaningful patient and organisational outcomes from use of NTS. Similarly, implementation of any training course should receive appropriate scrutiny to refine team and institutional performance.