Nurse Leadership: 5 Ways to Improve Your Nurse Leadership Skills
By Moira K. McGhee
Good nurse leadership skills allow you to affect change by inspiring others to work towards accomplishing individual and organizational goals. It takes a special individual with specific qualities and characteristics to become a leader in nursing.
No matter your job title, all nurses are leaders in some capacity. This could entail persuading patients to take appropriate steps in their treatment to regain or maintain their health, acting as a mentor to less experienced nurses or working as a nurse manager.
Strengthening your nurse leadership skills makes you a better nurse and leader, which helps advance your career and could help you transition into a management position, if that’s a career goal.
5 Ways to Improve Nurse Leadership Skills
Whether you want to enhance your nurse leadership skills to transition into nurse management or just to become a better leader, there are many ways to improve leadership skills for nurses.
Help reach the pinnacle of your profession with these five ways to improve your nurse leadership skills.
1. Pursue lifelong learning
Shantay Carter, founder of Women of Integrity says taking leadership classes and personal development classes are two great ways to improve your nurse leadership skills.
Pursuing additional education and training is a common suggestion for nurses trying to improve their leadership skills and can be accomplished in several ways.
- Good leaders keep current on research and technological developments to understand the impacts they have on the nursing field and gain knowledge on how to integrate improved techniques and equipment into their current practices and pass this knowledge on to others.
- Graduate level training improves your competencies, which provides additional assurances to patients and peers that you’ve acquired the specialized training required to provide safe, quality care and take on leadership roles.
- Explore opportunities that allow you to attend continuing education workshops, seminars and conferences, where you can expand your knowledge and network with other nurse leaders.
2. Mentoring goes both ways
Mentorship is beneficial in developing leadership skills for nurses and works both ways — finding a mentor and being a mentor. Carter agrees, saying that you should become a mentor and a preceptor.
Do this by seeking out individuals whose nurse leadership skills you admire and shadow them to learn how they engage with and motivate patients and peers.
Then, transfer what you’ve learned by mentoring inexperienced nurses, which helps new nurses succeed and allows you to practice your new and existing leadership skills.
Train others to be better than you, so that one day they may follow in your footsteps,” says Amanda Davis, a full-time RN in a busy trauma emergency department, student in nurse practitioner school and travel blogger on Travelaffari.
3. Confidence is a vital nurse leadership skill
Good nurse leadership skills should include a healthy dose of confidence in yourself and in others on your team. This requires developing self-awareness and building trust and confidence between team members. Examine everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, including your own, and seek learning opportunities to improve both.
Effective leaders also learn how to keep their emotions in check by understanding how these emotions might affect others. While certain emotions inspire others to meet goals, the wrong emotions can undermine confidence in your leadership skills.
Always attempt to set a positive tone and position everyone for success in their endeavors. “Be your best coach and advocate for your team,” emphasizes Davis.
4. Enhance communication skills
“Communicate your needs, and you will always accomplish more,” encourages Davis. Being an effective leader hinges on developing outstanding written and spoken communication skills, which are some of the most essential traits for nurse leaders to possess. Improve your nurse leadership skills by learning to actively listen to peers, patients and administration.
Listening is the first key to communication, followed by delivering concise, accurate responses. When you work to develop your communication skills, you also improve your nurse leadership skills and effectively learn how to guide, motivate, influence and persuade others to exceed your goals.
5. Get involved
“A good leader knows when to lead and when to follow,” advises Carter. Follow like-minded individuals and expand your personal knowledge by joining professional organizations.
Active memberships provide numerous opportunities for leadership development. This includes volunteering to serve on committees within these organizations to provide you with different experiences in a leadership role.
You'll also have plenty of opportunities for networking, which allows you to meet and build relationships with various individuals — some of whom may be great leaders looking for enthusiastic followers to help pursue their own set of goals.
Attending state and national nursing conferences also lets you meet and learn from nurse leaders in action. Most will happily share their knowledge with any nurse wanting to learn how to be a more effective leader.
Fostering nurse leadership skills takes time and effort, but you’ll find the rewards are well worth it because patients, peers, superiors and the general public hold nurse leaders in high regard.
“Set goals and reach them, be friendly, smile and lead by example; others will follow,” concludes Davis.