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5 Useful Principles for Nursing Leadership
After many years in nursing leadership, I have gathered five effective principles for those considering this career or who want to brush up on their leadership skills:
1. Lead by example. No matter what your level of superiority is in your organization, you need to set an example. Picking up trash from a hallway or stopping to escort a lost patient should not be something that is “below” a nurse leader's capabilities.

During meetings, it is important to watch your body language as nurses. I recently received valuable feedback from a co-worker who noticed that I was perceived to be “wearing a frown” during a meeting. I promptly took note of this perception and now I am more aware of my body language, as I realize that every move I make impacts my team.

When discretion is necessary, follow the golden rule by addressing the issue in a way you would want others to react. All of these tactics will garner more respect from your peers, subordinates, and even patients.

2. Manage up, not down. From managing departmental budgets, to personnel issues, a nursing leader is no stranger to conflict. As tempting as it might be to blame others for problems, it is important to be viewed as presenting a united front with key stakeholders. In addition, it is important that a nurse leader seeks out opportunities to recognize their employees on regular basis. This is often referred to as managing up. Setting regular time aside to meet with your direct reports, your boss and front line staff provides the health care leaders the opportunity to hear about what is working well and to identify needs the audiences may have. It is also a great way to harvest opportunities to recognize other members of the team who may have made a difference in your health care organization.

3. If you’re investing more in your employee’s success than they are, it’s time to part ways. I am a huge believer in employee development and organic leadership growth, but I had to learn this lesson the hard way. In the past, I invested large amounts of my personal time to help a long standing manager of the laboratory department achieve results. I crafted a very detailed plan for results with the manager, worked overtime and often came in on weekends to assist the manager with issues on her team.

After a couple of months, I realized that the nurse manager was putting in very little effort into her own development and was not engaged in making the fundamental behavior changes needed to be successful in their role. I then met with the human resource department and worked out a transition plan for the manager. Moving forward, I have continued to provide a large amount to support for their direct reports and clearly outline expectations to ensure that goals are mutually accomplished.

4. Remember your roots. No nurse leader should forget where he or she came from. In addition, leaders should regularly take time to visit those early positions and walk a shift in the shoes of someone performing the role today. Taking a walk down memory lane can help a health care leader clearly understand the challenges faced by the frontline workforce, as well and provide a real-time view of the changes in care delivery. This is particularly helpful for leaders whose roots may be in patient care. As personal health awareness has improved, so have the expectations of high quality health care service.

5. Spend more time with high performers. Most leaders a well aware of the time low-performing employees can consume during your workday. They call, send emails, or just grab leaders in the hallway to chat about their problems or what is wrong with the organization. High performers on the other hand are often too busy doing their work to chat. This should not mean that the message to these valuable employees should be “do a good job and I’ll ignore you.”

Leadership in nursing can grow and benefit from high performing staff. More importantly leaders need to be spending time with high performers to re-recruit them. If leaders fail to spend time with their best performing staff then someone else might and these great employees will move on.

Original Article by:Maggie Ozan Rafferty, MBA, MHA, RN.  See more at:

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