9 Essential Qualities of Nurse Leadership

All care provider organizations need nurse leaders to oversee staff members. [1] The health care field grows more complex as nurse leaders brace for a mass exodus of retiring registered nurses and an influx of fresh, green talent.

Despite warnings of a health care talent shortage for the last several decades, developing new nurse leaders has been a low priority for current administrations. Today, three factors are of particular concern to nurse leaders: the growing baby boomer population, the increased demand for medical services presented by this group, and the large number of registered nurses who will soon retire.

It’s critical that current nurse leaders groom protégés to fill the void that will be left by their exodus. The lack of preparation to affect this outcome, despite years of warnings, has presented a considerable challenge for health care providers. Now is a difficult time for organizations attempting to develop a pool of qualified nurse leaders.

The retiring nurse cohort represents the biggest challenge for provider organizations who will experience a large influx of inexperienced nursing talent that will eventually comprise half the United States registered nursing pool. These circumstances make the cultivation of new nurse leaders vitally important. As a result, various nursing advocates have formed alliances to develop new leaders. With this in mind, the following nine qualities aid nursing executives in meeting the objective of fostering new leadership talent.

1. Emotional Intelligence

In clinical settings, nurse leaders work closely with trainees to help them develop emotional intelligence. [2] Such support helps peers to cope with the stressors that present during routine challenges. Nurse leaders assist trainees in managing those challenges and other counterproductive influences that can result in emotional exhaustion and poor team collaboration.

2. Integrity

Integrity for one’s self and among charges is a primary objective for nurse leaders. [1] Personal integrity aids nurse practitioners in making the right choices during critical junctures in patients’ treatment plans. Additionally, effective leaders adapt to use, and teach, ethically viable practices that enable fledgling nurse leaders to make safe and effective care decisions intrinsically.

3. Critical Thinking

Nurse leaders guide unpolished practitioners in the use of critical thinking to develop their ability to make decisions based on a complex array of factors. This skill is vital in a health care environment with increasing instances of multidisciplinary collaboration. The growing trend of autonomy for nurses also makes critical thinking a valuable professional skill for practitioners.

4. Dedication to Excellence

Nurse leaders are committed to their passion and purpose and exemplify this through their perseverance in the caregiving setting. [3] To foster this trait among new nurses, leaders may assess performances quarterly. Despite the technique used to improve nurse performance, all nurse leaders teach their charges dedication to excellence by delivering top-notch service so that trainees can learn from their examples.

5. Communication Skills

The current multidisciplinary treatment environment greatly increases the importance of collaboration in the care provider setting. To facilitate collaboration, nurse leaders arrange for trainees to attend rounds while engaging with various medical professionals, such as support staff, primary care providers, and senior executives. Some health care organizations also establish recruitment retention teams, who might engage in these rounds with trainees.

6. Professional Socialization

During training, nurse leaders gain an intense understanding of patient-nurse dynamics. [2] Nurse leaders focus on developing how trainees engage with patients after the triage process. Effective nurse leaders identify opportunities to develop new organizational leaders during this learning process.

7. Respect

Nurse leaders are passionate, dynamic influencers who inspire change in others and, in the process, win the respect and trust of their charges. To accomplish this, leaders teach communication techniques such as two-way communication and rephrasing to promote a workplace environment where stakeholders engage each other in a productive, positive manner. By understanding each other’s circumstances, trainees gain respect for their peers and nurse leaders.

8. Mentorship

Nurse leaders deploy motivational strategies that cater to the individual personalities of their trainees. By empowering trainees and guiding them toward understanding their roles as care providers, nurse leaders cultivate an environment of continual learning. While effective nurse leaders make every effort to identify learning opportunities, they give trainees enough autonomy so that they do not feel micromanaged.

9. Professionalism

Nursing is a dynamic profession that requires competent, confident leadership. As organizational leaders, these professionals represent the nursing field at nearly every professional point of contact within the organization. This will increase in significance as nurse leaders find themselves representing the field in the boardroom more frequently as time moves forward.

Nursing leadership will change hands to a new generation of nursing talent over the next decade. [1] These professionals will play a vital role in liaising between nurses and executive leaders in the evolving health care environment. Therefore, it is critical that nurse leaders start cultivating their replacements now and that the new generation of nurses pursue advanced training, such as Doctor of Nursing Practice accreditation, that will allow them to practice to the full extent of their capabilities.

Learn More

Across the country, a national shortage of primary care providers has set the stage for RNs to advance. As more states certify nurse practitioners as primary care providers, you can pursue a new avenue of nursing to fill meaningful voids in today’s health systems. At Regis, you can earn an online post master’s certificate in nursing to not just prepare for advancement in nursing, but to also expand services as a primary care provider.

Recommended Readings:

5 Resources for Nurse Practitioners for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

The Importance of Health Promotion for Family Nurse Practitioners

Best Practices to Promote Cultural Awareness


[1]The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

[2]The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing – Growing Nurse Leaders