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Top Leadership Skills Nurses Should Have

By University Alliance
Top Leadership Skills Nurses Should Have

Successful leaders inspire others to do and be their best. They successfully create group consensus because others trust them, buy into their vision and follow their lead. When conflicts arise, they meet them head on with a calculated, caring approach.

If you’re currently working as a registered nurse, you may be looked upon as a leader – by newer RNs, LPNs, CNAs and by patients and their families. Whether you aspire to become a leader in the nursing profession, or be the best nurse you can be, you can make an even stronger positive contribution to the profession by developing effective leadership skills.

If you’re interested in developing your leadership potential, you might start by focusing on the following four emotional skills.


To be an effective leader, you must begin by taking a good look at yourself. Self-awareness means knowing how to read your own emotions, and understanding how those emotions can impact others. For example, when a family member expresses concern that an elderly patient may be missing a regular treatment or medication, you may feel emotions such as alarm, anger or disappointment. In this situation, it would be important to take a moment to recognize those emotions and think about how expressing them would affect the situation.

When you begin working on self-awareness, you might want to keep a journal, meditate or exercise in order to practice focusing on yourself, your feelings and emotions. Spending time walking, running or working out at a gym can be great for your body and your mind. It can also help relieve stress and give you time to think about your actions and reactions to various work situations.

Time Management

Nurses sometimes have a tough time taking care of all their responsibilities in the workplace. While patient care always comes first, nurses frequently find themselves having to stay late updating charts and doing other shift work. While you can’t always predict what your day will be like, becoming a leader in the nursing field means being able to effectively manage your time. Here are a few tips to help you become better at time management.

  • Organizing - You’ll typically save time when your work area is clean, stocked and organized. Keep as many digital files as possible to help eliminate clutter. Use inboxes and clipboards to organize hard copies and charts. Constantly work on tidying up the working environment.
  • Planning - You can’t manage your time without knowing what needs to be done and when. Make a daily list of things you’d like to accomplish. Write everything down, no matter how menial it may seem. Plan your day around the tasks, allowing as much time as possible for the eventual unforeseen issues.
  • Prioritizing - After patient care, what are your most important responsibilities? You likely won’t get everything done in one day, but if you prioritize tasks, you can accomplish the most important tasks first. Lower priority tasks can move to the next day or the incoming shift.
  • Scheduling - Once you know what needs to be done, create a schedule. Block out time for mandatory meetings. Include some time for breaks, either mental, physical or both. Fill in with your prioritized tasks for today and then those that you carried over from yesterday.

Social Awareness

Social awareness is caring about what others are going through, understanding their needs and responding to them. Becoming a leader in the nursing profession means excelling in this area. Fortunately, nurses are encouraged to display compassion to patients and their families. Today’s nursing leaders know that it’s critical to develop good social awareness skills, such as active listening, identifying emotions and recognizing what’s behind a person’s words.

Nurses are trained to tend to patients’ physical and emotional needs. As a leader, they recognize their peers and subordinates’ emotional needs. When nurses empathize with people – whether patients or staff – they can gain trust and become a more effective leader.

Relationship Management

Leaders also use their relationship management skills to inspire others, influence their behavior and develop their potential while simultaneously managing projects, emergencies and conflicts. Managing relationships can be more complicated than managing projects, though, since you can’t predict how people will react to any given situation. Whether you’re dealing with a conflict between co-workers or an intimidating personality on your team, you can successfully manage the relationships around you.

Use your social awareness skills to tap into the needs and desires of others. Be aware of what people are feeling and what led to the feelings in the first place. Next, decide how you will react to achieve an outcome that best meets your needs.

Develop Your Own Nurse Leadership Style

When you’re developing your leadership skills – both practical and interpersonal – remember that trying to emulate someone else’s leadership style isn't often the best course of action. Typically, it's better to focus on being authentic, honoring your strengths and developing your own unique style. Think about what you stand for and how you will communicate it. Demonstrate a genuine commitment to learning, listening and giving and receiving feedback. Most of all, be aware of your emotions and how they affect others.

Category: Nursing