Could you speak a bit about your background and the role you have today? I first started school for engineering, and then after two years I found my passion was in nursing. So I started over at school, taking different types of classes as I pursued nursing, and three years later graduated with a nursing degree. Several different paths where traveled in nursing for me, meaning I tried many different departments and assignments. Then by accident I ended up as an RN case manager for mentally ill clients. Psych was never my intended path, but I loved it from the first day. I am now a Manager of a group of outpatient clinics for mentally ill clients and love it. I cannot see myself doing anything else now. How would you describe a leader?
A good leader is only as good as the group you are leading is what I was always told. That does help, but there is a lot more that goes into it. I believe a quality leader should also be a good teacher. A leader needs to have the knowledge to pass on to those they lead. A good leader has to be able to listen as well. While those under me may look to me for answers, I have to realize that I may not always have that answer. I may have to take input from my staff, my superiors, and even clients in making proper decisions. Another attribute that is important is a critical thinker. A leader has to think on the go, and know that the answers are not always text book answers. Thinking outside the box sometimes is needed. I also need to earn trust and respect from my staff and those I oversee to be effective. What are important qualities or characteristics of leaders?
It is important to have an open door policy, and listen to each staff member’s concerns. You need to be open to changes and be empathic for those who do not deal well with change. A leader needs to be forceful and fair to everybody. Confidence and inner strength will show through, making the staff
or those you oversee more confident in your abilities. A diploma on the wall may get you a position in the leadership. But only demonstrating advanced social and professional skills will allow your team to trust you, which in turn, will make for a more productive team. What is your personal philosophy?
Personally, my philosophy revolves around the construction of clear and workable vision of what needs to be accomplished. I try to envision the future, and make goals that will benefit the clients, as well as the facility and staff. Building a quality team is not as easy as hiring qualified individuals. Leading means are getting individuals to work as one coherent team. To do this, I need to be able to discipline, listen, and even moderate discussion. My personal ego cannot be larger than any staff member, or the team as a whole. I need to take criticism, and be able to see others’ points of views. I want my entire team to feel as if they are important cogs in the machine. I believe a leader accepts responsibility, and in doing so never places themselves above the team.
What learning experiences have had the most influence on your own personal development as a leader? Experiences that shaped my growth began in childhood with the support of my family. I was always told I could do or be anything if I worked hard enough. I took that to heart, and excelled in school and sports. When I started college I had no real answer for what I wanted to be, but the drive that was inside me drove me down this path. Professionally, I once had a manager that loved her job and showed it with every meeting. Her passion reminded me of my parents and what they had taught me. She was a true role model in my professional life. I was also blessed to have quality teachers throughout my years of schooling. Coaches played a key role in my development as a leader too. Unfortunately, I also dealt with my fair share of poor supervisors too. Seeing the impact poor leadership can have in a work environment can be just as enlightening for someone looking to move into a leadership position. Luckily, I do not use them as role models. At least I tried not to.
How do you see leadership evolving in nursing today?
Leadership in nursing is headed into many different fields today. Nursing roles are evolving with new technologies, new specialties, and higher levels of nursing. Because of the need for healthcare increasing, nurses are being tasked with more responsibility too. Nurses are now asked to step up and become leaders on the floor, in schools, in management, and many other aspects of healthcare. Nurses are becoming leaders in the development of strategies in developing and delivering the product to the consumer. Nurses were viewed as employees who followed doctors’ orders in the past. Today nurses have the ability to grow beyond that, and in doing so, nurses can take the lead in providing care. Leader can positively impact the health care system within which they operate. Nurses will be leading more clinics and other facilities in an effort to care for the increase in those seeking healthcare. Healthcare is a business, and nurses are trained in that business.
So it is only common sense that these highly trained people should play a leading role in the changes we will see. What are the most challenging issues in your current position? The biggest challenge is trying to get more funding for the mentally ill. It can be hard to deal with all the meetings that we have to get money for medication, treatment, food and housing and to stay upbeat as a leader. But I love this job, and my clients, so that makes it worth dong. It is also very difficult to find enough staffing for mental health. It can be a very taxing job, and it takes a special person to be able to handle the position in mental health, especially in the long term. Finding professionals with the patience needed in dealing with our clients is always a huge challenge. As a leader (or manager) in your career have you had a mentor? If so, how did this influence your leadership style? I had a supervisor that taught me to leave the business at the door and never bring it home. Working in mental health can be emotionally draining, so this tiny bit of advice is important for me to keep in my mind. If I took my work home, I would need help soon.
What advice would you give someone who is aspiring to a leadership position? My advice would be to learn as much as you can for the position. Use the knowledge you have gained through seeing others in leadership positions to your advantage too. Remember the qualities of leaders who brought out the best in you, and try to bring those qualities to the position. Also, be humble. Becoming a leader will not end your education. It is just the next step in your evolution. In conclusion, a leader is somebody who accepts responsibility. A leader is a person who can see the big picture. A person, who is adaptable and able to bring out the best in others, is a leader. A person who cares enough to make the team stronger for the benefit of all involved is a leader. A leader is a person who can moderate, discipline, coordinate, listen and teach in a way that demands respect and confidence from those they lead.
Sullivan, E., & Decker, P. (2009). Effective Leadership and Management in Nursing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Sullivan, E., & Decker, P. (2009). Effective Leadership and Management in Nursing. Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.