One of the hot topics in nursing is the need for good nurse leaders. For minority nurses, the topic is especially important. As the patient population becomes increasingly diverse, nurse leaders of all ethnicities are going to be needed to most accurately represent the diversity of those patients.

If you are intrigued by the idea of taking on more challenging roles and increasing your responsibility but aren’t sure you have what it takes, read on. Some leaders have a natural way with both superiors and subordinates and inherently magnetic qualities to boot – the term “born leader” probably applies to these folks.

But if you weren’t graced with those qualities, you can always learn them, and wanting to do more, achieve more, and make a change is more than half the battle.

If you don’t feel like a born leader, how can you make yourself look like you are one?

1. Act Like a Leader

Come up with innovative ideas and make sure they get in front of the right people. You can start small with something in your unit and then expand into something bigger. Always look for ways you can improve your environment. Make your own work habits impeccable – be on time, be calm, be decisive, be professional, and always, always be prepared.

2. Share Your Knowledge

Leaders want to make a change; they don’t want to keep all their knowledge to themselves. Offer to make a lunchtime presentation about changes you implemented that made a difference so you can show others how to do the same. Document new policies so others can achieve the same success. Mentor a younger nurse or a nursing student.

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Healing from the Bitter Pill of Incivility

3. Praise Your Colleagues

Have you ever noticed that a good leader offers strong guidance and opinions, but is equally free with giving praise where praise is due? If your team did something great, get the word out and include everyone’s name on documentation. Sing their praises and thank them in whatever way your department finds appropriate. Even something as simple as a fresh fruit and muffin breakfast is appreciated and remembered.

4. Keep Learning

Leaders never stop learning, and they will learn from any situation. Leaders do more than keep their certifications up to date, they learn how to do something new. Take a class in policy change. Investigate a new development in your specialty or learn about any new treatments involving diabetes or whatever chronic condition you see frequently. Join a professional organization and learn how nurses in other organizations work or how they solve problems. Study how businesses motivate workers and keep up with the changing world.

5. Make the Change

Leaders combine the information they learn, the situations they find themselves in, and the people they meet, and they use all that forward momentum to make a change for the better. How can you use those forces at work in your life to make a change? Can you start by being the best advocate for your family or an ill neighbor? Can you help your community or a local school by giving them accurate, timely information with a newsletter or a presentation? Can you make a lasting change for a repeat patient who struggles constantly with discharge instructions or one colleague who needs a little professional guidance?

See also
Inclusion, Part 1: Your Role in an Inclusive Work Environment

Maybe you weren’t born a leader, but you can become the leader you want to be. You just have to start somewhere.


Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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