Launching yourself in nursing leadershipWritten by AMNT Guest 6/15/2012 2:57:58 PM
Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
Editor’s note: At
American Nurse Today, we believe every nurse can be a leader. This
article is the first in what will be occasional guest blogs by Rose O. Sherman,
founder of the Emerging RN Leader blog (www.emergingrnleader.com).
addition to her guest blogs, Rose will contribute articles
on a regular basis to help nurses achieve their leadership potential.
You may know that you want
to be a nurse leader but are unsure about your next career step. It is
important to recognize that you don't have to be a chief nursing officer or a
nurse manager to "lead." You can begin leading from wherever you are
in the organization. If you manage your career around this concept, you will
focus less on your linear progression up the career ladder and more on your own
personal mastery and impact.
An important question to
ask yourself as you begin your leadership journey is whether you have the
qualities that nurses look for in their leaders. Successful leaders are
unable to achieve goals without inspired and motivated followers. We have all
probably observed nurses who have been placed into leadership positions and had
the formal title of leader but are not successful in capturing the heart and
soul of those they lead. John Maxwell, in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws
of Leadership, makes the important point that leadership is above all the
ability to influence others. We know from research some key qualities that
nurses look for in their leaders include:
· A commitment to excellence
· Passion about their work
· A clear vision and
· Empathy and caring
· A commitment to developing
Honest feedback about whether or
not you demonstrate these qualities is important at the beginning of a leadership
career. A good mentor can help you grow as an emerging nurse leader and open
doors to new learning. Unlike the preceptor relationship, which you may be
familiar with in the clinical setting, a mentor provides career guidance and
helps you become more aware of your strengths and areas where you need
development. An ideal mentor for an emerging nurse leader is someone who is
knowledgeable, has leadership experience, and is interested in helping you to
For some nurses, just getting
noticed in their organization can be a challenge, especially if it is very
large or if you work a night tour. When opportunities become available for
advancement, you want to be someone that the nurse leaders in your organization
think about as a great candidate, so consider these tips:
1. Look professional
First impressions do count if you want to get noticed.
Professional dress and being well groomed matter in creating a good image. When
nurse leaders see nurses with wrinkled scrubs and dirty shoes, the impression
is generally not favorable. You want to be remembered as someone who will be a
good candidate to represent the organization.
2. Stay updated
It is important to stay updated by reading professional journals
and attending educational programs. Be a "go-to person" for new
information in your specialty area. In addition to staying updated clinically,
pay attention to the news and what is happening with health policy. Think about
how proposed changes in health reform could impact your organization and share
your knowledge with other staff. Recognize that health care is also a business
and become knowledgeable about the business of caring.
3. Take leadership roles
Take leadership roles at the unit level. They can be small but it
is a great way to get started. Volunteer to take a leadership role on a unit shared-governance
committee. Take charge when you have the opportunity. This is an excellent way
to connect with other staff and leaders in your organization.
4. Volunteer for task forces and committees
Volunteer for organizational committees and task forces, even if
it does mean coming in on your day off to participate. Leaders do notice when
staff members are committed enough to an organization that they are willing to
give back some of their personal time to be involved in activities.
5. Participate in organization-sponsored
Join the heart walk team, the breast cancer walk, the March of Dimes,
or other teams your organization may put together to support the community. Get
others on your unit to join you. You will find that organizational leaders
participate in these activities, and it can be a great way to introduce
yourself in an informal setting and meet many new people.
6. Be professionally involved
Join a professional nursing association and attend the local
meeting. You will probably meet staff and leaders from your organization that
you might not interact with in other forums. Local professional associations
are always looking for members who are willing to assume some leadership responsibilities.
Holding office in a local association can be a good way to gain recognition.
7. Serve as a preceptor and
cheerleader to other staff
Be ready to share your skills and knowledge with others. Sharing
and volunteering to be a preceptor can be a great way to get noticed. Your
manager will appreciate your willingness to be a strong team player. Be the
first to congratulate others for their achievements and be the person who helps
create a healthy work environment on your unit.
8. Keep your commitments
I once asked a great nursing leader what he attributed his success
to. He told me that he did what he said he was going to do when he said he was
going to do it. This will get you noticed, he assured me, because so few people
actually keep their commitments. This is really great advice. If you volunteer,
be sure to follow through.
There has never been a
better time to choose nursing leadership as a career goal. The retirement of a
large number of baby boomer nurse leaders will result in great career
opportunities by the end of the decade. Oprah Winfrey often says that “luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” The time to start preparing for these
opportunities is now.
O. Sherman is an associate professor of nursing and director of the Nursing
Leadership Institute at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida
Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.
She is the author of a
blog for emerging RN leaders www.emergingrnleader.com.
Maxwell J. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2007.
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