Nurses are often rightly pleased to be members of a profession that is routinely ranked as the most trusted profession. But does that trust and respect transfer directly to getting your voice heard? Not necessarily.
Nurses are ranked as members of the most respected profession, but one that is the least influential, says Dr. Daniel Pesut, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN, professor of nursing at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing and the director of the Katherine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership.
When nurses take assessments that help determine their strengths, lots of nurses fall into a strategic or executive corner, says Dr. Pesut, but lack the most representation in the corner where influence is most important. This is where nurse leadership becomes all important. The problem is that nurses need to have their voices heard collectively as professionals and on the job as individuals. “Lots of leadership is about influencing,” says Dr. Pesut.
So if your strengths don’t square you in that corner where you can influence people, can you change that?
The short answer is yes. Dr. Pesut recommends nurses watch the Wisdom Dialog series by Eleanor Sullivan, PhD, RN, FAAN, who wrote Becoming Influential: A Guide for Nurses. Learning about and understanding the dimensions of influence are often the first steps to learning how to garner influence. A lot of it, says Dr. Pesut, is understanding the meanings behind what’s being said and what’s not being said.
Taking on leadership roles at work is an important step to becoming influential. “There are some who are always task oriented and there are some who always want to do more and feel compelled to do more because of their values and beliefs,” he says. Nurses with those qualities who nurture those attributes can become better leaders, but they also have to look at not just leadership, but resiliency.
Dr. Pesut addresses the idea of nurse leaders needing to bounce forward, not just back, in the book he co-wrote with Elle Allison-Napolitano, Bounce Forward: The Extraordinary Resilience of Nurse Leadership. Being able to take care of yourself and doing it reliably, puts a nurse in a good position to handle the inevitable setbacks and crises that will come in any leadership role.
Being able to nurture and support resilience in nurse leaders so they can continue to put their resilient leadership style into good and effective use in the workplace can only help their influence as a profession grow.