9 Essential Qualities of a Good Nurse Leader
Being a nurse leader is difficult. There is a lot expected of you with very little praise at times. I’m sure some nurses are naturally good nurse leaders, but for most of us being a good nurse leader involves effort and educating ourselves with the best practice.
It’s not hard to be a good nurse leader, but most cannot stumble upon greatness without some work. Instead, they need to be intentional in their leadership. Here are nine qualities of a good nurse leader.
1. Keep your Word
Have you ever had your nurse leader promise to do something only to fall short on that promise? Even worse, have they acted like that promise was never made in the first place (I’m sure most know what I’m talking about)?
There is nothing more frustrating than when your nurse leader fails to do what they said they would do. Failing to keep your word erodes trust and is a poor quality for a nurse leader to display. There is no real leadership without trust from your subordinates.
Delegating goes back to the very early days of our nursing training. As nurses, we learned the importance and criteria for delegation. For example, at times bed baths or vital signs were delegated to the nurse aides. The tasks were delegated to the nurse aides because it would be challenging to do everything ourselves. Nurse aides received tasks not requiring nurse expertise to do. Doing that freed up nurses to do more essential functions that required nursing expertise.
Like floor nursing, nurse leaders with so many responsibilities must learn to delegate. It would be unsustainable to try to do everything. What tasks are essential for you as a nurse leader to complete? What tasks can be performed by someone else?
3. Raising Leaders
Show me a nurse leader who does not train leaders from their subordinates, and I will show you a nurse leader who is probably frustrated.
Why would leaders want to raise other leaders? Wouldn’t this be counterproductive, creating someone to compete with? It sounds better to have subordinates who follow your orders without question. Wrong! This principle is counterintuitive; it looks good on paper but in practice failing to raise leadership around you is not very conducive for high work performance. You want to grow nurse leaders who can critically think for themselves, make decisions for the good of the team and can perform conflict resolution.
This kind of critical thinking creates excellence in the workplace and takes pressure off you as a leader to be solely responsible for extinguishing every fire. Raising leaders makes life easier for you and makes it easier to delegate work to other team members.
4. Leading by Example
One of the essential qualities of a good nurse leader is leading by example. When you are a nurse leader, you will be held to a higher standard and be under more scrutiny. Even when it doesn't seem like it, your followers will be watching to see what you are doing and how you are doing it. Are you cutting corners? Are you diligent about completing tasks well? Are you striving for excellence in your work? Few things will be more frustrating than nurse leaders setting high expectations and standards only for them to fly well below those expectations.
If you want to create a culture of high work ethic, helpfulness, and workers doing things the right way it starts with the leaders setting the example themselves.
5. Dealing with Conflict
As nurse leaders, we consistently have to make calls and have conversations that are not necessarily popular. That's not saying you should start conflicts or instigate chaos wherever you go but as leaders, sometimes conflicts are unavoidable and must be handled. Great nurse leaders deal with conflict, and mediocre leaders run away from conflict.
6. Effective Communicator
To be a great nurse leader, you must be an effective communicator. Communication includes verbal and nonverbal cues, and many would argue that nonverbal is as important if not more than verbal communication. Communication includes facial expressions, eye contacts, gestures, body posture, and voice tone; all of which can dramatically affect what you are trying to communicate. Good leaders know to be effective their communication needs to be received the way they had intended.
7. Open to feedback
Have you ever met that nurse leader who knows everything, never makes mistakes, and their plan works 100% of the time? Wait, you don't know who that leader is? It's probably because that person doesn't exist! Nurse leaders should be open for feedback from their subordinates and peers, especially from your frontline troops who might be more familiar with the daily grind and process. They will give you different perspectives that you might not have seen otherwise.
Lastly, involving your subordinates in decision-making processes will increase the likelihood of buy-in from them.
What motivates the people that you lead? Is it money or is it public praises or recognition? Maybe what drives them is the challenge. As nurse leaders, we must understand what motivates those we lead. It would be awesome if people showed up to work motivated and ready to work. However, that is not always the case. If people aren't motivated, you can expect subpar work performance and work ethic.
The last quality of a good nurse leader is one who is proactive. A proactive leader is one who anticipates events and plans for them ahead of time. The opposite of that is a reactive leader who frantically deals with events as they happen instead of planning ahead.
What are other qualities of a good nurse leader?
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