Best-selling books have been written about what makes a leader great. Ivy League graduate business schools have designed their curricula around the question, and many award-winning movies and documentaries have featured the making of great nurse leaders. The characteristics that make them great has engendered a good deal of dialogue and debate, including whether these skills are innate or learned, begging the question: “Are great leaders born or made?” Let’s take a look at some of the attributes they have in common.
Great leaders are committed, confident, creative, innovative, inspirational, passionate and compassionate. They have integrity, a strong sense of purpose and defined missions and visions. They’re resilient, and when they fall down, they get right back up. They’ve been tested, they’ve proven themselves, and they’ve risen to the top of their organizations.
Great leaders are sought out for advice because their colleagues value what they have to say. They are eager to accept responsibility and be accountable for the outcomes. Staff members feel safe when a great leader is at the helm, and they are prepared and ready to take over when necessary because their leader has given them the confidence they need.
When great leaders are successful, they don’t look for praise for themselves; instead, they credit the success to the others’ contributions. They give credit where credit is due, and as champions of their teams they cheer them on and applaud them publicly. Great leaders are self-aware and recognize the scope of the positions they have, but they never forget to acknowledge those who taught, mentored and motivated them along the way. Because of this strong sense of self, they plan and chart their own courses carefully and thoughtfully. Over time, they set and meet many goals, but they’re always eager to accomplish more. They’re proud of all they have achieved, but are prouder still of what they’ve led others to achieve. Above all, great leaders put their whole heart into all they do.
Are you perhaps an aspiring nurse leader who knew someone who motivated you to follow in his or her footsteps? Are you working on the characteristics you observed in that leader, or are you unsure and still struggling with the decision to pursue leadership? As the debate about great leaders being born or made and their traits being innate or learned continues, there are some things you can do now to help you decide if you want to follow the leadership path.
You can start by asking yourself questions to see if you’re ready to make the move, which can include everything from “Am I sure I want to leave my current position?” to “Am I ready to get the degree, certification and training I will need?” and “Will management be a good fit for my personal and family life?” You also may want to speak with a leader you admire to find out how he or she made the decision and got started in leadership. You will have a lot of information to gather and a lot of new things to learn, so hopefully that leader will become your mentor. Also, you’ll have to do some research on the different roles that are available at your workplace, talk with some of your colleagues and perhaps even consider the possibility of moving to another facility to get your first leadership position.
There’s a world of opportunity out there for you if you think nursing leadership is in your future. Only you can answer the question. Only you can start the journey.