Do you have what it takes to be a good nurse leader?
With the call for more nurse leaders to step up in a time of high demand for excellent nursing skills, many nurses have to wonder if they have the skills and the strengths of a nurse leader.
“Every nurse has an opportunity to lead every day and in every way,” 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.
But how do you start taking on leadership duties if you don’t know where to begin? “Get clear about what your strengths are and what your purpose is,” says Dr. Pesut.
Although nurses can certainly do some deep reflection and introspection to find out their strengths, Dr. Pesut suggests a different approach that he uses in his classes. Using the book Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (Gallup), nurses can take the assessment and figure out their top five signature strengths, he says, out of a list of a potential 34 identified strengths. Then align the results with the four things followers want from leaders – trust, compassion, stability, and hope.
The resulting matrix shows nurses how they can best use their strengths for leadership. For example, if one of your strengths is strategic, the matrix can help you figure out how to elicit more trust or show compassion, says Dr. Pesut. “It’s a leadership blueprint and you can use that in your personal and professional development,” he says. Often, his students say the assessment assignment is one of their favorite assignments in class, if not ever.
He also suggests checking out the assessment on the Via Institute on Character’s assessment at viasurvery.org that reveals your top 24 character strengths and values. Surveys like these help you identify certain characteristics you might not be aware of and even ways to help those strong characteristics work in your career.
Once you’ve got your list, you can even compile your words into a personal statement of sorts. “The value of that is that it gives you a vocabulary for expression that you may not have had before,” Dr. Pesut says. Then when you go into work, you can find that you provide value where your strengths lie and can position yourself to use those strengths – whether that’s focus or connections or learning.
“Play to your strengths and work around your weaknesses,” Dr. Pesut says.