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Be a Leader: The 3 Skills (and a Principle to Live by) That You’ll Need to Rise to the Top in the Nursing World.

by David Nesmith
November 20, 2018 Being a nurse leader isn't easy. If it was, everyone would do it. If you practice the skills and life principle in this article, you’ll have a strong start for reaching your career goals and rising to the top of the nursing profession.
A photo of South University nursing students practicing patient care.

According to the BLS, the demand for all types of nurses continues to grow. As it does, the demand for nursing department and team leaders. Exponentially.

It's never too early to be thinking about your nursing career trajectory. To help you do that, here are three skills that will help you reach the heights of the industry. We've also thrown in an essential principle to practice for good measure.

  1. Decision making

    Decision making is a key leadership skill in any work environment. Whether it’s who to hire, how to schedule staff, or which treatment approach to pursue, the ability to make a good decision with available information is vital.

    Nurses' decisions have always had important implications for patient outcomes. Nurses are often cast into the role of active decision makers in healthcare by policy makers and other members of the healthcare team.

    No single decision-making formula can be used in all situations.

    In order to be a good decision maker, you need a systematic approach so that, no matter what type of decision you have to make, you can make it with confidence. You can’t just rely on your gut. You need to be able to analyze data and project the future of every decision to increase your success.

    In the nursing field, clinical decision making is vital. It’s something that you develop over time, so the sooner you begin honing your decision-making skills, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

  2. Conflict resolution

    Let's face it, even the most well-oiled machines can skip a gear every now and then. So too can a great, cohesive team have an occasional hiccup with one member on the "hic" side and the other pulling for "cup" team.

    Guess who settles these conflicts? That’s right, the leader. And, if you want to be an effective leader, you better learn how to resolve some issues.

    Handling conflicts in an efficient and effective manner improves quality, patient safety, and staff morale. Also important – it lessens the stress on the team.

    Effective resolution and management of a conflict requires clear communication and an understanding of the perceived areas of disagreement. Miscommunication is responsible for too many unnecessary conflicts. Good conflict management means knowing and understanding the mutual and individual goals of those affected. It then becomes a job of understanding each perspective and working toward a solution that meets their mutual goals.

    Here are five styles of handling conflict:

    • Dominating
    • Obliging
    • Avoiding
    • Compromising
    • Integrating

    It has been commonly believed that each of these styles depend on the disposition of the leader. Recently, however, these conflict management behaviors are believed to be partially situational. Effective conflict management means choosing the style that matches the situation at hand.

  3. Delegating

    For a leader, delegating means assigning tasks and activities to team members below you.

    There are many benefits to delegating, some of which are:

    • Training. You can teach someone how to do something, but most people can only master a task by doing it themselves. Delegating tasks, with close oversight for the true novice, will help you develop others and instill even more confidence.
    • Trust. When you delegate something that is meaningful, you’re saying, “I trust you to do this.” Your delegate will not only feel better by having your trust, but they are also motivated to own the task and move heaven and earth to get it done right.
    • Time. Even super-you can’t do everything. If you try, you’ll burn out and you won’t be effective overall. Think of it this way – as a leader you should have your eye on the bigger picture. You can’t afford to get lost in the minutiae.

  4. Integrity

    Integrity is less a skill than a way of life. It means following moral or ethical convictions and doing the right thing in all circumstances, despite what's most profitable for you. Even if no one is watching. Especially if no one is watching. Having integrity means being true to yourself and doing nothing that would demean or dishonor yourself or anyone else.

    There's an old saying that goes, "The only way to build self-esteem is through esteem-able acts." The same goes for integrity. To be a person with integrity requires practice. Here are ways you can practice integrity in the workplace:

    • Always keep your promises and commitments, even if it takes extra effort.
    • Do not gossip.
    • Do not let someone else take the blame for something you did.
    • Never reveal confidential information that someone has trusted you with.
    • Just do the right thing without expectations of advancement or reward.

Being a nurse leader isn't easy. If it was, everyone would do it. If you practice the above skills and life principle, you’ll have a strong start for reaching your career goals and rising to the top of the nursing profession.

You can further strengthen your nursing leadership abilities by advancing your nursing education. While all of South University's nursing degree programs teach some leadership skills, if you’re truly passionate about becoming a nursing leader, our Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program with a Specialization in Nurse Administrator, our RN to MSN with a Specialization in Nurse Administrator, or our Doctor of Nurse Practice degree program may be right for you.

Tags: nursing nurses leadership leadership principles

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