As nurses, we are too often reluctant to accept the challenge of a leadership role. We defer to doctors and non-medical administrators when it comes to organizational strategy and day-to-day decision making. We focus on doing our jobs professionally, bringing quality care to our patients. What we fail to recognize is that leadership – the ability to articulate a vision that will benefit our patients and our organizations so others understand and agree – is an essential skill to effective nursing. The challenge of leadership is even more daunting to people of color, for whom history has often refused decision-making authority and responsibility.
We presume “leadership” means standing in front of large groups and “rallying” them to action. Leadership is more often much less dramatic, and more powerful. So, let’s talk a bit about what leadership means and how we can acquire the skills to be a leader.
Society is becoming more complex with each passing day. Traditionally, nurses of color have struggled against tremendous odds to secure a place in mainstream nursing. In some ways, that struggle has lessened in recent years but the ability to find the voice of leadership has remained elusive. I believe that leaders are not born; they are made. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader. No matter where you find yourself in your career; there are always opportunities to utilize leadership skills.
If you want to become a leader, you must commit to a level of accountability that others won’t. You must commit to a level of knowledge and skill that those around you shy away from. You will have to have inner strength. Being a leader is not always easy. As a leader, you are the one who will respond to change.
In our ever-more-complex world, the one thing I can guarantee is that sooner or later something will go wrong, or a difficult decision will need to be made. When that time arrives, we all look to a leader to guide us. The decision could be as straightforward as increasing membership dues or as complex as reconsidering end-of-life protocols. The difficult decisions change every day. What is constant is the need for a leader to make those tough decisions and make sure your organizations, colleagues and clients benefit.
So, how do you become a leader?