The Nurse Leader Within

The Nurse Leader Within

By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN

“If you think people are negative, then you better check your attitude.”  John Maxwell

A nursing leader recently told me that she was losing enthusiasm for her job and becoming very cranky with her staff.  “This is just not me and I am not being the best leader that I can be.”  I think many of us can relate to the feelings that she expressed.  She found herself overreacting to situations and not managing her energy well.  On a positive note, she was wise enough to recognize it and was not blaming others for how she was feeling.  Staying in touch with the leader within ,sometimes referred to as personal mastery, and knowing when self-change is needed is an important leadership competency

Personal Mastery a Key Competency

In 2002, I was part of a team that conducted research interviews with 120 nursing managers in South Florida to determine their perspective on the leadership skills needed by nursing leaders today.  The results of this research were reported in the Journal of Nursing Administration in 2007.  Nurse leaders identified personal mastery as  one of six critical leadership competencies for today’s nursing managers.  They shared the following insights with us.

Leadership skills begin with understanding one’s self.  Personal Mastery is a critical component for leadership success.  Outstanding leaders demonstrate self-confidence and are able to trust and empower others.  They know how their communication and actions impact others and are sensitive to watching the cues in an environment when things are not going well.  Nurse leaders told us that to be a great leader, your staff needs to have confidence that you are trustworthy and treat everyone fairly.  Leaders make mistakes but having personal mastery is being able to look at your mistakes, acknowledge them and learn from them.  There is nothing that staff appreciates more than a leader who is able to say “I was wrong”.  Leaders have to maintain emotional intelligence even in the face of challenges.  Staff rely on their leaders to maintain a sense of hope and optimism.  Being personally resilient is important in leadership.

Key Personal Mastery Behaviors

From our discussions with nurse leaders, we identified the following behaviors that are key to achieving competency in personal mastery.  These include the following:

* Seeks feedback on personal strengths and weaknesses

* Demonstrates leadership in situations demanding action

* Maintains a professional demeanor and serves as a role model for staff

* Assumes responsibility for personal development and career goals

* Takes the  initiative to be a continuous learner

* Establishes effective networks with professional colleagues within and outside the organization

* Creates a climate where self development and improvement is valued

* Manages self effectively in emotionally charged situations

* Learns from setbacks and failures as well as from success

* Demonstrates a passion for excellence and a commitment to quality

* Sets achievable goals and is successful in executing plans developed

* Demonstrates pro-activity in dealing with leadership problems

* Initiates unit and health care agency wide projects and assumes responsibility for their success

* Follows through on commitments and agreements

* Admits mistakes in spite of the potential for negative consequences

* Remains calm under pressure

* Demonstrates fairness in dealing with all levels of staff

* Projects optimism

* Fulfills commitments to team members

It is impossible to lead others effectively without learning to successfully manage yourself.  All leaders have ups and downs in their leadership journeys.  Reflecting honestly on whether you are demonstrating these personal mastery behaviors is a good place to begin.

Read to Lead

Sherman, R.O, Bishop, M., Eggenberger, T., & Karden, R. (2007). Development of  a leadership competency model from insights shared by nurse managers.  Journal of Nursing Administration,  37(2), 85-94.

Sherman, R.O.  2003.  nursing_leadership_model2

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