8 Essential Qualities for Nurse Leadership

Well-run healthcare organizations need nurse leaders who not only oversee other nurses, but who also inspire, motivate and mentor the nurses who may be under them. The need for nurse leaders is quite high right now due to the massive nursing shortage that is being caused by an exodus of senior nurses. It is therefore important that new nurses fill these positions. The nurses who would like to fill these positions need to be effective leaders if they want to succeed in leadership positions. For these, they need to have some essential qualities, eight of which we will look at below.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to observe our emotions and those of others and to know what to do in situations where different emotions are high. Emotional intelligence also requires that a person is able to control their emotions no matter what is going around them and what others are feeling. In a healthcare setting, nurse leaders must work with younger nurses to teach them emotional intelligence. They must also be able to control their emotions for their patients’ sake and the admiration and respect of those around and under them.

High emotional intelligence can also be very helpful in helping colleagues with the highly emotional nature of nursing as well as the daily challenges it presents.

Decision-Making Skills

Nurses are faced with thousands of choices every day and all of these choices have to be right, otherwise there will be serious consequences. Nurses also have to deal with a lot of information and know how to deal with it. On top of all this, nurse leaders have to be responsible for the day-to-day decision-making of the departments they are responsible for, as junior nurses will often look to them to know the way forward.

Nurse leaders must be efficient, accurate, clear, and effective decision-makers as this is the best way to ensure an organized, efficient, and decision-driven health care environment.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a huge component of decision-making in nursing. Critical thinking allies nurse leaders to take in all the information presented to them and make the right decision based on their analysis of this data or information.

In many cases, nurse leaders have to solve complex organizational, personnel, or patient issues. They have to be able to come up with the best solutions in these situations, and this is where their critical thinking skills are usually required.

Critical thinking is also becoming more important as multidisciplinary healthcare becomes the norm. This is where practitioners from different departments work together to come up with solutions to common problems.

Conversely, there is an increase in the number of nurses working autonomously in private practice. In this area, critical thinking skills are also very important.

Many junior nurses do not have the necessary critical thinking required to work in complex health care environments. Nurse leaders are tasked with helping unpolished nurses hone their critical thinking skills.

Commitment to Continuous Learning and Professional Development

Continuous learning and professional development are important qualities for nurses who want to thrive in leadership positions. It is important to understand and remember that healthcare is always changing and the leadership models that were effective in the past may not be today due to advancements and conclusions drawn and lessons learned from extensive research.

Continuous learning allows nurses to stay up-to-date with the changes continuously happening in healthcare as well as emerging challenges that they may not have had to face in the past.

Professional development often includes pursuing a postgraduate degree with a focus on nurse leadership. For example, Baylor University has great DNP nursing leadership courses that prepare nurses for leadership positions by teaching influential leadership, decision-making, business strategy, new healthcare models, and a lot more. Continuous learning and professional development can also be done through credentials and certifications that do not necessarily result in a degree but that teach specific leadership skills.


As mentioned, the healthcare industry is constantly changing, and nurse leaders who do not adapt will often be less successful than those who do. Nurse leaders must be prepared to face and resolve the uncertainties they face every day as well as the changing landscape they work in. Nurse leaders must be able to observe the whole landscape, see what news to change, how they need to change, and then pass on these changes to junior nurses and anyone with them.

Effective Communication Skills

The need for effective communication skills is being driven by the need to communicate with patients and nurses, as well as the multidisciplinary nature of health care. Nurse leaders with effective communications skills can ensure success among their staff and departments. They can also help keep things organized as they are able to clearly outline what everyone’s roles are and this helps avoid confusion.

Working in a multidisciplinary environment means that nurse leaders have to be fluent enough to ensure effective collaboration with other healthcare practitioners.

Guidance and Mentorship

Nurse leaders must use their skills and knowledge to lead and guide the nurses who train under them. By providing this guidance, nurse leaders help foster a continual learning and development environment in their healthcare facilities. This guidance is also important to help guide the paths of young nurses who would like to become nurse leaders themselves.

When mentoring young nurses, nurse leaders should come up with strategies that cater to the different personalities of trainee nurses. This helps the nurse leaders better guide young nurses into the roles that fit them best, be it patient care or leadership.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict is avoidable in any environment where there is a clash of personalities, skills, and experiences. Conflict resolution is a vastly important quality because of this fact. It helps nurse leaders resolve any issues within their teams and helps improve productivity, patient outcomes, teamwork, and collaboration.

Conflict resolution is also critical when developing care and diagnostic plans for patients who may be uncooperative or have differing opinions.

For nurse leaders to be effective in their positions, they need to possess certain qualities. These qualities help them ensure the success of their departments and trainee nurses while ensuring patients receive proper health care.