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How Can Nurses Become Better Leaders?

Leadership is a critical element of nursing staff development. Patients have higher expectations and are seeking support and education from reputable resources, mainly nurses. Due to the rapidly changing healthcare environment, organizations seek agility in their hires. Being able to move quickly and responding efficiently to a change or challenge helps nurses excel.

No one person can keep up with each healthcare specialty area or be an expert on every healthcare problem. Organizations are starting to acknowledge that leadership is a shared responsibility across disciplines and team members. All nurses can develop or refine their leadership skills from the start of their nursing career.

What Are Top Leadership Skills?

A healthy balance of work and personal life, participative management, self-awareness and a broad organizational perspective emerged as top leadership skills, based on nearly 35,000 leadership-effectiveness evaluations across various healthcare organizations.

Successful leaders inspire others to work together toward common goals that ultimately improve patient care. They encourage different perspectives by establishing mutual trust and respect in a supportive environment.

How to Develop Leadership Skills?

Here are some ideas for developing healthcare-focused leadership skills. Consider seeking growth opportunities while supporting others in doing the same.

Coach others. Some options include teaching a new skill, preceptorship, authoring or participating on a committee either within your organization or a professional network. If you’re not ready to coach yet, start by watching others who are good communicators or providing constructive feedback.

Balance work and personal life. Nurses are wired to take care of others, so they need to be mindful of their work-life balance. Being tired or overworked leads to poorer patient outcomes and increased stress, burnout and other health issues. Setting priorities, learning to say no, and finding ways to decompress are some ways for nurses to find balance. Take time each day to practice self-care to build resilience and sustain your career in nursing.

Widen your perspective. Strong leaders encourage others to share knowledge, ideas and reactions. Actively seek people on your team who approach things differently. Look for opportunities to view issues from different angles in the workplace. Organizations may use various strategies to promote diverse viewpoints — a shared governance model and a clinical ladder committee system are examples.

Become more self-aware. Leaders who are self-aware know their strengths and weaknesses and welcome feedback. Try not to be defensive if someone gives you feedback. Accepting criticism requires a genuine willingness to improve yourself.

Know the goals. Leveraging a shared vision or goal to encourage others is called transformational leadership. Thought of as the “gold standard” in nursing leadership, it is the cornerstone of the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program. Know the goals of your team, unit, department and organization. Practice by setting clear goals in your patient care and making sure you stay on top of project goals at work.

When seeking leaders, organizations often look at pertinent skills and not just at years of experience as a nurse. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can expand your professional skills and help you become an effective leader.

Learn more about Lamar University’s online RN to BSN program.

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