Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Seven Traits of Effective Nurse Leaders

Please enjoy this guest post from Samantha Boone of Aspen University:

Rejoice in your work; never lose sight of the nursing leader you are now and the nursing leader you will become.” – Sue Fitzsimons

Leadership shapes innovation and change, and as more and more baby boomers retire, the baton is being passed down to new generations of nurse leaders. “Senior leaders look to surround themselves with creative and talented individuals to accomplish not only organizational goals but also a shared vision,” says Dr. Marcos Gayol, Assistant Dean of Nursing at Aspen University. “In doing so, they also provide these same individuals with opportunities for growth, involvement, and fellowship with career advancement goals in mind.”

All nurses are leaders in some capacity. While some nurses are good leaders by nature, most others have to work a little harder to inspire change within their hospital or organization. What makes a good leader? How does a nurse find the balance between efficiency, integrity, and business foresight?

Great leaders say YES - They say yes to challenges, yes to opportunities, yes to mentor others, and yes to even the unknown.” - Dr. Marcos Gayol

Here are seven traits that effective nurse leaders embody:

They treat others with respect:

Being a leader is not about having power over people. As the old saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Developing positive relationships serves as a base to inspire others to work together for the betterment of your patients. For example, when a fellow team member needs help, show your coworker kindness and empathy in your response and actions.

They manage up:

Whether you’re in a formal management position, the most senior nurse in your unit, or even a new nurse, a good leader anticipates the needs of those around them, including their superiors. Research shows that great managers search for what is unique about each team member and champions their coworkers to excel at those unique abilities. Dr. Gayol adds, “Meaningful recognition of team members can make a powerful impact retention and build those individuals’ positive self-confidence to help create better future leaders.”

They are good listeners:

As a nurse leader, you have to help resolve issues, both large and small. The best nursing leaders create approachable environments where others can ask questions and be honest about errors. It’s good practice to turn away from screens and papers to show that you’re listening to your colleagues.

They communicate well:

There are many ways nurse leaders use top tier communication skills, both verbally and in writing. Good leaders respectfully ask questions and give thoughtful answers. They provide recognition and encouragement. They communicate advocacy for their patients and teams. They research ideas through evidence-based and knowledge-based practice and present those ideas clearly and effectively. They talk without being defensive and can admit when they are wrong.

In short — good leaders are impeccable with their words.

They know policies and procedures: 

Nurses who can effectively delegate, evaluate compliance, and rectify situations make great leaders. To do so, nurse leaders need to possess excellent working knowledge of communication strategies and understanding of laws, regulations, the scope of practice, and policies that impact their practice environment. Addressing problems with staff, equipment, and other pressing matters takes time and commitment. Nurse leaders recognize when there are issues and show determination in creating solutions to prevent or eliminate barriers for success.

They use critical thinking:

In health care’s sophisticated, high-tech environment, nurse leaders must use critical thinking to make important daily decisions in areas such as finance, budgeting, staffing, strategic planning, and quality assurance. Nurse leaders also use critical thinking strategies to help inspire fellow nurses to generate creative solutions. These managers stay alert and identify goal-driven growth barriers by learning how to turn problems into opportunities for improvement, which are learned leadership skills. One of the most useful ways to develop strategic critical thinking is through education.

They never stop learning:

Sometimes a nurse manager is promoted to their position based on their clinical skills and abilities or even seniority. They may lack training for a leadership role, and it can be overwhelming to be in charge of friends and colleagues suddenly. In other instances, a nurse may know early on that they want to pursue leadership roles and seeks to acquire the necessary leadership strategies to do so. Working nurses can equip themselves with acquired strategies that prepare them to succeed in leadership and managerial roles. By pursuing an online MSN degree with a focus on Administration and Management. future nurse leaders will learn effective leadership from dedicated faculty focused on aligning their extensive real-world expertise with the student’s career goals.

Nurses who already have a Master's degree and are seeking advanced or executive leadership positions might consider a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. DNP graduates work in healthcare executive roles like CNO, CIO, and COO, nursing faculty roles including deans, clinical research, executive boards, organizational leadership roles, Health informatics systems, healthcare lobbyists for state and national organizations.

When it comes to being a nurse leader, expectations are high. Don’t ever stop trying, and you will reach your goals.

Guest author Sam Boone is a content specialist for Aspen University. She is passionate about learning and producing valuable resources that empower others to enhance their lives through education. Aspen University offers CCNE accredited programs at every degree level. Aspen created affordable degrees and 0%-interest payment plans with transparent pricing so that nurses can focus on courses, not the fine print.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known nursing blog, Digital Doorway. Please visit his online platforms and reach out for his support when you need it most.

Keith is the host of The Nurse Keith Show, his solo podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. From 2012 until its sunset in 2017, Keith co-hosted RNFMRadio, a groundbreaking nursing podcast.

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century and Aspire to be Inspired: Creating a Nursing Career That Matters. He has contributed chapters to a number of books related to the  nursing profession. Keith has written for Nurse.com, Nurse.org,, MultiBriefs News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AUSMed, American Sentinel University, Black Doctor, Diabetes Lifestyle, the ANA blog, American Nurse Today, NursingCE.com, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online and print publications.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, keynote speaker, online nurse personality, social media influencer, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives, and their adorable and remarkably intelligent cat, George. (You can find George on Instagram by using the hashtag #georgethecatsantafe.) 

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