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8 Leadership Skills Nurses Need to Be Successful

Utica College is a leader in producing outstanding nurses, who impact the profession through their confidence, strong leadership, critical thinking skills, and overall industry knowledge.

As well as being compassionate, patient, and caring, as a nurse you also need to be able to demonstrate leadership skills from the start of your career. Today’s healthcare environment is in a state of flux, which makes planning ahead difficult. However, the right leadership qualities can help you respond to the many challenges and opportunities you will face. With the right skills and knowledge, you can take your career to the next level. Here is a list of qualities to help you get the most from your profession.

  1. A global perspective or mindset
    Understanding and embracing cultural diversity is a critical skill needed when working in any community. In the context of healthcare, a global perspective will help nurse leaders to respond effectively to worldwide healthcare trends and adapt them to their work on a national, regional and local level. It is by working together and sharing technologies, strategies and successes worldwide that we can begin to address global healthcare issues.
  2. A working knowledge of technology
    In order to operate an efficient healthcare service, you need to support it with the right technology. Electronic health records (EHRs) clinical decision support (CDS) and biometrics support daily processes and interactions in healthcare as well as impacting the collection and use of healthcare data. It is expected that by 2020 these technologies will be commonplace, so arming yourself with the appropriate technical knowledge now will stand you in good stead for the future.
  3. Expert decision-making skills
    A key quality in any leader or manager is decision-making skills. Healthcare decisions based on research and empirical science are most likely to achieve the desired results. However, decisions in complex environments such as healthcare can often be hard to judge and look set to become harder in the future1. One decision-making strategy that could be implemented by nurse leaders in the future is using ‘expert networks’; communities made up of top thinkers, researchers, managers and scientists2. Whatever the solution, the process of decision-making needs to be aligned throughout the organization if problems are going to be combated effectively3.
  4. Prioritizing quality and safety
    Studies suggest that the current healthcare system is let down by errors and not enough focus on patient/worker safety. This has been attributed to a culture of blame, poor communication and a lack of resources within the profession4. In the future, nurse leaders will need to adopt innovative approaches to quality and safety and integrate them into their daily processes.
  5. Being politically astute
    Politics surrounds us and is a part of every organization and healthcare is no different. Nurse leaders need to be able to identify the finer details of relationships, communication and informal power structures at work. By accurately interpreting these different social situations they can act appropriately in sensitive situations.
  6. Collaborative and team building skills
    Good leadership is all about creating good working relationships, identifying a common purpose with colleagues and working together cooperatively. However, achieving the right balance is not always easy. The focus for nurse leaders needs to be on collaboration, becoming great role models and creating a sense of community through mentoring, clear communication and conflict management5.
  7. Balancing authenticity and performance expectations
    A true leader is someone who remains true to themselves and their values. Authenticity in leadership is something that today’s organizations need if they are to succeed. In a healthcare system that is increasingly focused on reaching targets and meeting budgets, nurse leaders are likely to be faced with moral dilemmas. Meeting the ever-changing expectations and priorities of stakeholders is a hard task, but by being an authentic leader, nurses can place the patient first.
  8. Coping effectively with change
    Being visionary and proactive when faced with a healthcare system defined by rapid change and chaos is perhaps the most important of all the qualities listed. Today’s healthcare organizations face continual change in the form of organizational restructuring, quality improvement and employee retention6. Such change brings with it feelings of pride and stress in equal measures. Nurse leaders need to embrace change, adapt to it and in doing so re-energize and empower the workforce7.

Advance your career with Utica College

Advance your career in Nursing

Develop desired leadership skills with Utica College’s online RN-BS Nursing (RN-BSN) degree

Leading healthcare organizations are striving for magnet status and as such are requiring nurses to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. These organizations recognize that increasing the formal education levels of their nursing staff has a positive impact on their leadership, critical thinking and decision-making skills in caring for patients. Like increasing their educational credentials, those who will take charge of the industry will have uncanny leadership ability, the foresight to see emerging trends, and, have expert decision-making skills.

Registered Nurses can hone their leadership skills with a bachelor’s degree from Utica College.

Utica’s RN-BS in Nursing program is designed to teach leadership skills that can be directly applied in any healthcare setting. Its industry-leading online nursing curriculum and teaching methods incorporate patient-centered teaching, career-focused skills, and knowledge, as well as evidence-based practice, to ensure that graduates find meaning and fulfillment in their careers.

Accredited by the New York State Department and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the RN-BS Nursing program at Utica College assures you that your degree is relevant, recognized, and respected.

For more information, call Utica College at: (315) 732-2640 or toll-free at (866) 295-3106 to speak with an admissions advisor.

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Adapted from: Huston C. (2008) Preparing nurse leaders for 2020. Journal of Nursing Management 16, 905 911 [WWW document].
URL [accessed on 10 June 2014].
1,3. Camillus J. (2008) Strategy as a wicked problem. Harvard Business Review 86 (5), 99 106.
2. Saint-Amand A. (2008) Building an Expert Exchange. Networks in Decision-making. [WWW document]. URL [accessed on 14 April 2008].
4. Jessee W. (2006) What patient safety looks like. Six steps that mark an organization that really cares about medical errors. Modern Healthcare 36 (42), 18.
5. Gratton L. & Erickson T.J. (2007) 8 ways to build collaborative teams. Harvard Business Review 11 (85), 100 109.
6. Marquis B. & Huston C. (2009) Leadership Roles and Management Functions in Nursing: Theory and Application, 6th edn. Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins, Philadelphia, PA.
7. Burritt J.E. (2005) Organizational turnaround. The role of the nurse executive. Journal of Nursing Administration 35 (11), 482 489.