What Skills Do Nurse Leaders Need To Be Successful?

What Skills Do Nurse Leaders Need To Be Successful?

There are various different levels of nursing, and each individual will determine exactly what level they want to reach in their careers. Some will be excited to qualify as an RN and stay at that level until they retire as it gives them the most satisfaction and they enjoy the work. Others will want to progress and gain promotions until they become a nurse leader. It really will depend on the individual and what they want from their careers and their lives.


If you are a nurse who likes the idea of taking on a leadership position at some point in the future (or even at a specific point – planning ahead is always a good idea, and having specific, achievable goals, which might include a yearly timeline of your career, is part of that planning), it’s crucial to know what skills you will need in order to be successful. Although part of being a nurse leader is down to the practical nursing skills you have, there is more to consider, and if this is something you want to do, you’ll need to work on gaining these other skills if you don’t already have them. With that in mind, read on to find out what those skills or traits are so you can learn them or enhance them as need be.

Compassion And Empathy

Although this is a trait that really can and should be applied to all nurses, as a nurse leader having compassion and empathy is essential. You’ll be a role model to other nurses, and they will need to be able to look up to you and follow your lead. The better you can be with your patients and the more you understand them and help them, the better the rest of your team will be as well. Remember that as a nurse leader, you will be leading by example much of the time, even if you don’t realize it’s happening. This is why you must be as good as possible and always work to the best of your abilities at all times – you must assume someone (and probably more than one person) is watching your every move and going on to emulate it.

However, the reason we specifically mention compassion and empathy for nurse leaders when they are traits all nurses need is not necessarily (or not solely) linked to the patients. It is connected to your nursing staff as well. Nurse leaders will have the task of training other nurses, which is why always being your best is so vital. If you can be compassionate and empathetic to the nurses you are leading, you’ll get better work out of them, and they will retain more information. A nurse leader who simply barks orders and expects everyone to understand and who comes across as being annoyed when questions are asked is not going to have great nurses working under them. Instead, those nurses, who might have had great potential, will only do the bare minimum, perhaps afraid to speak out or ask for more knowledge. They might even leave the profession altogether.

Being a nurse entails a lot of responsibility but being a nurse leader entails even more. It is your job not just to take care of patients but to create nurses who will love their jobs, stay in the profession, and who have a great deal of knowledge and practical skills. This is why nurse leadership might not be the right path for everyone, but why those who take up the challenge find it so rewarding.


Integrity is another hugely important trait for any nurse leader. When you are in a position of authority, people will look to you for advice and ideas, and they’ll want to follow what you say and what you do. Working with integrity – in other words, having a good moral character and always putting the patient or the clinical setting first – means you’ll be able to provide the very best care and be an ideal role model for those around you.

Having integrity also means you can be sure the patient and their family and friends are able to put their trust in you. This makes helping them easier and ensures a better recovery process. Imagine if a patient were unsure about everything you do because they didn’t have faith in your ideas and expertise. It would be extremely difficult to treat them successfully, especially if you needed to give them information about taking their own medication or cleaning their own healing wounds when they got home.

If you want to be a great nurse leader, you need to be trusted by all those around you, and that means working with integrity at all times.

Critical Thinking

As a nurse, you’ll need to make quick but accurate decisions every day. Some of these decisions will be more serious than others, but all will be linked to patient care or the smooth running of the department you are working in. You’ll be asking the nurses you lead to take on tasks for you, and it is your decision-making that will determine what those tasks will be.

Although we’re not saying that nurse leaders never make mistakes – everyone does – critical thinking is an important skill to have as it means those mistakes occur less frequently. You’ll need to make these decisions based on all the factors taking place around you and every bit of evidence you have. This is why each decision will be different from the last, even if some of the circumstances are exactly the same. With this ability to think critically, you can come to the right conclusions more times than not, and your team can be set to work helping people in the most effective and efficient ways.

This is not always an easy skill to learn. It is hard to make decisions for some people in normal circumstances, but when you are in a high-pressure situation such as nursing, it can make things even more challenging. This is where your expertise, knowledge, experience and, ultimately, your confidence in yourself will make a huge difference. Because of this, it is best to be entirely sure that you are ready to become a nurse leader before taking the necessary steps; otherwise, it will just be a stressful job to take on, and your patients (and your team) won’t see any benefit.

A Love Of Learning

Everyone is different, and that’s certainly something you’ll come to terms with as a nurse, even if you hadn’t realized it before. Everyone does things in a different way, they have different opinions, and they enjoy different things.

If you are the kind of person who does not like learning and was glad to finish your formal education, then you probably won’t have the skills necessary to be a nurse leader. To begin with, you do need to have specific qualifications, and going back to school to do BSN to MSN programs online is crucial. If you’re not happy to do this, progressing in your nursing career is going to be difficult, and you may prefer to remain as an RN, for example. You can still make a huge difference to patients and be an integral part of the team, and nurse leadership is certainly not something everyone wants to do or has to do.

However, if you enjoy learning and you want to gain as much knowledge as possible while also progressing your career, your ultimate goal may well be to become a nurse leader. Not only will you need to have the formal qualifications mentioned above, but you will need to understand how vital it is to keep learning even when you’re not studying for a particular degree. There will always be changes taking place in the nursing profession because there are always new ideas coming out and improved ways to do things to make patient care better.

As a nurse leader, you need to know about these changes as soon as possible. You need to understand not just what they are, but how they can benefit your department, nurses, and patients, and how you can implement the changes without too much disruption. This is all part of the role of a nurse leader.

As such, a good skill to have is a thirst for knowledge and the ability to learn new things, even when you’re busy. Sign up to newsletters, blogs, vlogs, journals, and keep abreast of innovations in nursing by attending conferences and speaking events. The more you can know, the better your department will be, and the more successful your team (and you) can become.

Dedication To Excellence

5 Important Leadership Skills for Nurses | The Chicago School

When you are a nurse leader, you are tasked with setting the tone for the team following you. You’ll want them to be the best nurses possible, and you’ll want them to make a difference in patients’ lives. You’ll also want them to progress and achieve as much as possible in their careers, no matter what step of the nursing career ladder they strive to get to.

If you can show dedication to excellence in your work, you can show what it takes to be a wonderful nurse, and your team can follow in your footsteps. The more dedicated you can be, the better the overall outcomes for patients, even if you’re not treating them yourself.

Dedication to excellence isn’t just about patient care either. It involves being organized, responsible, able to cope with challenges, working well in a team, asking questions, and much more. Being the very best you can be at all times is an essential trait for nurse leaders, although it can be hard work. This is why you also need to understand when it’s time to stop and rest. If you just keep doing at one hundred percent, you’ll lead yourself to burnout, and at that point, you’ll no longer be able to effectively lead your team. Good leadership is about knowing when to take a break as much as it is about hard work. Plus, you’ll want your team to stay as healthy as possible, and that means showing them that stopping when necessary is a crucial part of their nursing lives.


A nurse leader has to have the essential skill of communication. The more they can communicate what is needed to their team, the better the work will be done. As well as this, their team will be able to learn more and become better nurses overall.

It’s not just other nurses who a nurse leader has to be able to communicate effectively with. They will also have to talk to a variety of other people in one setting, such as patients, their family, and other colleagues or managers. They might also need to communicate with outside third parties, whether that is linked to cleaning, admin, food, or anything else that is necessary to run a healthcare facility. Who a nurse leader has to talk to will depend on what level they are working at and where they are working, so it may well change from position to position. However, what won’t change is the need to communicate well.

Plus, although much of a nurse leader’s communication will come through talking to others, it is crucial you also have a grasp of other elements of communication. This might be writing reports, sending emails, creating timesheets, updating patient notes, and so on. Knowing how to communicate well in all areas will ensure you are able to lead a team in the right way.


You might think that as a nurse leader, you have a lot of different tasks to do each day. You might look at what is required and assume that you will be busy, perhaps even overwhelmed, by what is needed. You might choose not to become a nurse leader simply because you don’t think you would be able to do everything that is asked of you.

The truth is that a good nurse leader will know what needs to be done but will delegate some of that work to others in their team. In this way, the nurse leader will not be overwhelmed, and will empower other members of their team, showing trust in them that they have the necessary skills.