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Nurse You may be wondering if you have what others look for in their leaders.  If we look at the research that has been done both in nursing and the business world, followers do look for certain attributes in their leaders that help inspire confidence.  So ask yourself these 10 questions.

1.  Am I seen by co-workers as someone who has integrity?

Integrity is a fundamental leadership attribute.  Nurses expect to be able to trust their leaders.  Followers become very insecure when trust breaks down in the work environment.  When leaders are inconsistent in their expectations or if they don’t role model the behaviors that they expect of their staff, trust is compromised.

2.  Am I empathetic towards others on my team?

Empathy is defined as the ability to be sensitive to the needs of others.  Most nurses have no difficulty being empathetic with patients but may behave very differently with their team members.  Combined with integrity, empathy helps to drive trust.  It gives followers a sense that their interests are being looked after, and this helps to create positive energy.  Followers who sense that a leader appreciates them are motivated to carry out their responsibilities in a more committed way.  Nurse leaders must show that they care for their staff if they expect staff to care for patients.

3.  Do I have the respect of my peers?

It is often said that the essence of leadership is the ability to influence the thoughts and behaviors of others.  To achieve influence, leaders must be respected.  Respect by one’s peers is something that needs to be earned.  In a leadership role, you will be given formal authority but will need respect to win the hearts and souls of your followers.

4.  Do I demonstrate emotional intelligence?

While it has always been important for leaders to be knowledgeable about their work, the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership is now considered to be equally important.  Emotional intelligence (EQ) can be described as self-mastery or the ability to understand and control what we feel (our emotions) and the way we act (our response to these emotions).  It is about self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship management.  It is also about maintaining a keen sense of awareness of the emotions of others.  This is not always easy to do in high stress environments but leaders with a high EQ are more effective.

5.  Can I create a vision that lends direction to the work of the team?

Members of high performance teams want to be led by leaders who have a clear sense of direction in their work.  Cohn and Moran describe visionary leaders as “good storytellers who are capable of weaving together interesting connections”.  In nursing, this vision should include the ability to see the connections in the system of care rather than simply focusing on the impact on one unit or department.

6.  Do I have good judgement?

Good judgement means that leaders are able to make good decisions.  We know how important critical thinking and the ability to respond rapidly to crisis situations are in clinical settings.  These same traits are important when making leadership decisions.  Although good decision making may sound simple enough, the origins of how and why people make the decisions that they do is often very complex.  For nurse leaders, good decision making is the ability to zero in on what is important in a situation and take decisive action in a timely manner.

7.  Do I have the courage to face conflict?

Conflict is an inevitable part of work-life and this is especially true in health care settings where the level of stress can be very high.  Being a leader means being on the frontline of those conflicts.  If you are like many nurses, you may tend to avoid conflict.  Avoiding conflict can lead to the escalation of problems.  Leaders need to learn to confront conflict directly and develop strategies to effectively mediate conflict.

8.  Am I a Self-Starter?

In a staff nurse role, your day is often drive by the many tasks that need to be done to care for patients.  Nurse leaders have considerable responsibility and accountability but their time is not structured in the same way as it is in a staff position.  For many new nurse leaders, this is one of the most difficult parts of the transition to a leadership role.  To accomplish your goals, you must not only be organized but you will also need to be a self-starter who tackles the issues that are presented.  You cannot expect to always wait for direction from those higher in authority.

9.  Can I stay positive and resilient in a changing environment?

Health care today is in a constant state of change.  This is a global phenomena and is unlikely to change.  Nurse leaders must be able to live with the ambiguity that inevitably occurs when there are rapid changes in the environment.  There are often not clear cut answers to questions that staff and patients may have about the future.  The ability to remain positive and keep your team focused on the mission and goals of the organization are critical skills.

10.  Do I have a passion for nursing and can I inspire that passion in others?

A leader’s passion or drive is important because it creates positive energy.  Nurse leaders should be professional advocates.  They also need to look for ways to inspire their team.  Marcus Buckingham in his well-respected book ,First Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently, outlining research with 80,000 managers observed that great leaders are able to find what is unique in each of their employees and help them to use their gifts to do great things.


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