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A Structured Approach to Nurse Leadership

Nurse leaders across the U.S. are challenged to improve organizational performance, evaluate and optimize employee satisfaction, and ensure the ongoing delivery of quality patient care.

These goals can be extremely difficult to perform consistently and can seem abstract and hard to impact directly.  The key for many nurse leaders, from managing in the trenches to executive-level leadership, is proper planning.  Positive changes are most likely to result from the development of a plan with applicable steps and a leader who strives to continuously assess and improve in their role.

A leader shouldn’t underestimate their influence on organizational goals. The actions of the leadership can often influence the job satisfaction of their employees. Reflecting on past, present and future goals may help to set yourself and your organization, up for success.

Push Pause: Assess Today

Before creating goals, determine how satisfied you and your employees, are with your organization’s current progress. What should stay the same? What needs to change? Pausing to assess where your organization is today can help you determine what to focus on for the coming year and develop manageable goals.

A few ways to assess your organization include to:

  • Seek multiple perspectives – Ask your employees for their opinion. Encourage honest feedback and listen without judging to include your employees in the development of appropriate goals. Promote their ideas and suggestions to show that you share in their enthusiasm. An engaged workforce that feels appreciated is more likely to be committed to stay with the organization and strive to meet shared goals.


  • Take the pulse of your culture – You may have invested time in developing your organization’s culture, but your perception of the culture may not match your employees. A positive work environment requires ongoing nurturing, advocating and celebrating desired behaviors, and not tolerating unsavory ones.


  • Invest in your employees – Are you helping others achieve their goals and resolutions through encouraging personal development? If you’re trying the same methods for results instead of taking advantage of the knowledge of the future nurse leaders of the organization, your progress might stall. Turnover may increase if employees believe they don’t have the opportunity to use their strengths or grow their careers. Preserve your quality employees today to avoid having to recruit new ones tomorrow.


  • Share your expectations – Have you shared last year’s goals and expectations and how successful they were? It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and not realize that internal communication may have stalled. Make sure the lines of communication are clear, or employees may make their own assumptions about organizational goals and expectations.


Take the Time to Rewind: Evaluate Yesterday

To gain clarity for the future direction of your organization, it’s helpful to review where you’ve been. The last year may be gone, but ensure your employees know their hard work isn’t forgotten. Take the time to show your appreciation, and celebrate the successes of the last year, before making demands for the new one.

Take responsibility for things that could have been done differently or improved. Lead by example and model that it’s okay to not have all the answers, and to ask for help, to encourage teamwork. This may also help employees view mistakes as learning opportunities and understand that positive progress may require a few failures. Create a mindset of enthusiasm for ongoing learning to encourage innovation.

Authentic leadership grows from self-reflection. Nurse leaders are required to make difficult decisions every day that can impact their employee’s personal life and professional career. To help develop others, you may first need to seek to understand yourself, and your strengths, as a leader.

Fast-Forward: Plan for Tomorrow

Reflection is often overlooked in a leader’s busy schedule. To ensure it’s not forgotten, some recommend scheduling time to reflect and develop self-awareness. Reflection can be something that’s done alone as a self-evaluation for personal motivation, or with trusted key staff members. Use this time to process issues and define your passions. Reflect on personal and professional strengths, challenges, and goals, to plan for tomorrow’s success.

Other ways to improve self-awareness in identifying goals include:

  • Commit to continuous learning to stay relevant with the changing healthcare environment.
  • Seek a mentor to provide guidance and help you become more aware of your strengths and vulnerabilities.
  • Ask yourself if your actions and methods of making decisions coincided with your core values? If not, what should you change to help you lead with integrity?
  • Evaluate what you expect of a leader and if you met your expectations on things such as accountability, honesty, and having the courage to do the right thing.
  • Assess whether you’ve displayed a commitment to your organization and employees by fulfilling promises and upholding the organization’s mission.

Celebrate Success

The job of a nurse leader is multifaceted, as are the demands and expectations. Don’t overlook your personal successes for the year gone by, or your influence on your organization, as you plan your goals. Take the time to assess personal and professional progress and obtain your employee’s input. This may help ensure continued growth, and success, as an authentic leader.


Article sources

7 Things Great Bosses Do

Be a Great Leader: Leverage the Wisdom of Multiple Perspectives

Leading Transformational Change as CEO

What Do Culture-Savvy Leaders Pay Attention to at Work?

What Is Authentic Leadership? Do You Have It?

Your Leadership Year in Review




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