Thusly, one may wonder, what do nursing and leadership have in common? Caring and compassion (Pullen, 2016).
Leaders (regardless of their given profession) do more than direct people and delegate tasks. Leadership, among other things, involves the influencing of the attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and feelings of other people, which hopefully results in a feeling of being genuinely valued and respected by the aforementioned group of individuals (Pullen, 2016). Leadership is integral in helping to bring an organization’s mission and vision to fruition.
Nurses are now being asked to expand their leadership skills, both as traditional caregivers or in more specialized management roles. Good leaders have certain attributes, including critical thinking and communication skills, and the ability to work as part of a team (Gratton L. & Erickson T.J., 2007).
Most important to note is that leadership and management skills are different in their own right. On the one hand, “managers are adept at controlling processes, making decisions, and coordinating resources, leaders empower others, inspire innovation, and challenge traditional practices” (Pullen, 2016).
Leadership, on the other hand, is about relationship-building. However, these skill sets need to coexist successfully to ensure safe, quality care for patients (Pullen, 2016). There are a number of scholarly articles identifying characteristics of good, and established nurse leaders, but little work that helps to explains the means by which such individuals may be identified early and how to cultivate their desirable skill set, with the intention of helping them grow as leaders and establishing effective succession-planning (Conners, Dunn, Devine, & Osterman, 2007).
As Grossman & Valiga, (2012) asserts, leaders, emerge and “continuously evolve based on a range of experiences and interactions with a variety of people”. Conners et al. (2007) point out, and ultimately suggest, that nursing has been slow to develop, incorporate, and practice strategies that help to recognize future nurse leaders and that given the current nursing shortage, this practice of recognition is more important than ever.
While the list of desirable leadership characteristics is rather long, it, perhaps most importantly to note is that it does not include perfection (Seitovirta, 2017). Effective nurse leaders need to recognize they, as individuals, are imperfect and need to develop and grow in their profession in the same fashion as the nurses who report to them (Seitovirta, 2017). Good leadership is about creating good working relationships, identifying a common purpose with colleagues and working together cooperatively (Gratton L. & Erickson T.J.,2007). However, achieving the right balance is without equal. The focus for leaders within nursing must be on collaboration, developing into a great role model and creating a larger sense of community (Gratton L. & Erickson T.J.,2007). There is, unfortunately, no simple answer to the more difficult question of what makes for good leadership in nursing, despite the existence of evidence showing that it can positively impact both patient experience and outcomes, in addition to nurse satisfaction and retention (Maxwell, 2017).
A true leader is someone who remains true to themselves and their values and is something that organizations need to be successful (Houston, 2008). In a healthcare system that is increasingly focused on targets and constrained (and ever constraining) budgets, nurse leaders are likely to be faced with difficult moral dilemmas. Meeting the ever-changing expectations and priorities of those who are in charge of the hospitals and clinics is a hard task, making it difficult for nurses to continue to place the patient first (Houston, 2008). What may be beneficial to help achieve this type of goal would be to set standards that are matched with the organization’s values, mission, and standards with the understanding that a nurse leader, needs to role model the set standards and use them everyday (Gratton L. & Erickson T.J.,2007). The nation’s healthcare landscape is evolving, and nurses are helping to lead this change by building and developing their leadership skills in order to deliver the most patient-centered care and tackle a growing number of roles (Anonson J, Walker ME, Arries E, Maposa S, Telford P, Berry L, 2013).