Indeed, nursing school is challenging, and many students feel as if their hands are full just getting through their studies, and surviving clinical rotations. But it is never really too soon to think about leadership. Landing that first job is a reasonable goal right now. But what about advancement? Perhaps the opportunity to advance in your career is the reason you are pursuing your RN to BSN. Good move. Now, take the extra step, and think about what makes a leader, and why you might wish to become one.
As noted earlier, leaders are in demand in the nursing profession. Not everyone can lead, but it is also true that not everyone can follow; there has to be someone making decisions and calling the shots. It might as well be you, if you are so inclined. So, how to get started?
Model Your Leadership Skills from Day One
It is a bit of a cliché, but to be a leader, you must first be a good follower. That means listening attentively, responding respectfully, acting responsibly, and asking questions whenever appropriate. And, of course, it means following directions scrupulously.
That said, though, it is never too soon to demonstrate your willingness to solve minor problems on your own. Assuming no safety issues are affected, consider attempting to solve minor problems yourself, first, before asking for assistance. Such proactive behavior is the hallmark of a natural leader: demonstrating initiative and crafting creative solutions when challenges arise. At the least, you should attempt to find your own solutions and run it by your superior.
If you are enrolled in an online nursing program, or perhaps working toward your RN to BSN degree, you are already engaging in an important leadership behavior: furthering your education. By doing so, you are expanding your knowledge and enhancing your employability. You are also gaining the skills and experiences necessary to be an effective leader. The best leaders often work their way up through an organization, because it is an excellent way to understand the issues facing any colleagues you may eventually be required to lead. Leaders are good at meeting goals with little to no supervision.
Learn the Tricky Art of Delegation
Strong leaders are often perfectionists who strive to achieve excellence in all things. They also frequently struggle with the need to let others take responsibility for certain tasks. The ability to assign responsibilities to others—and the capacity to trust them to accomplish their assigned tasks without constant supervision—is an important leadership skill. Surprisingly, some people in leadership roles find it difficult to delegate, even though by so doing they take pressure off themselves. Nevertheless, learning to delegate is crucial. It builds confidence and skills among team members and frees you up to perform other duties. Be willing to show your fellow nurses that they’ve earned your trust by delegating without hesitation.
Another way to demonstrate your leadership potential is to model leadership traits and qualities. The most respected leaders are typically people who have been there and done that. If they order others to empty bedpans, for example, you can bet they’ve emptied their share before. They’ve gotten their hands dirty, so to speak, know the ropes, and would not ask an underling to do anything they’ve not already done themselves.
Hone Your Emotional Intelligence
Here is an important insight: People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Nurses tend to be compassionate people, so it shouldn’t be a stretch to empathize with others as much as possible in any given situation. Empathy is a useful skill for a leader. People thrive when they feel their concerns are being heard. Becoming a successful leader depends on building relationships and respecting others.
Good leaders are neither dictators nor bullies. Rather, they keep an eye on the bigger picture and consider problems from multiple angles and viewpoints. Good managers are people with a rare combination of key traits, including great patience, a deep understanding of human nature, the ability to discover what motivates—and irritates—people, and insight into how best to keep things running smoothly, while getting the best effort out of the team. It is a balancing act, and a challenging one at that, which explains why good nurse managers are worth their weight in precious metals.