5 Positive Traits of High-Caliber Nurse Leadership

Nurse leadership is crucial to the health of any unit, facility, or agency, and we’ve all likely heard or experienced horror stories of nurse managers from Hades.

Still, there are stellar nurse leaders in the healthcare ecosystem, and there are certain ubiquitous traits in those leaders who stand above the rest. Here are five traits that can readily identify progressive nurse leaders who are at the top of their game:

Highly-Developed Communication Skills

There’s a saying that we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. A stellar nurse leader spends a great deal of time listening to what the nurses on the ground have to say. He or she will actively solicit information, listen deeply and then use that data as part of an ongoing assessment of the organization.

As a thoughtful, conscientious leader, individuals of this caliber use deep listening as a skillful assessment tool, and then consciously employ language that avoids shame and blame. Thus, a style of communication is employed that is an example to all in its fairness and kindness.

Fairness in Action

A high-caliber leader may indeed make difficult decisions, and he or she does so with a conscientious sense of equanimity. Decisions aren’t made from a place of reactivity; rather, they are arrived at through the aforementioned process of deep listening and careful deliberation.

Not every decision may seem fair to every team member, but necessary actions are explained using empathic acknowledgement of the potential discomfort that some may feel regarding the outcome. Even so, many team members still may admit the leader is thoughtful and fair, despite disagreement with the overarching decision.


In order to be an effective leader, the nurse manager demonstrates an affinity for increased self-knowledge. This implies the nurse manager’s willingness to critically review his or her behavior style, openly admit shortcomings and errors in judgment, and continue to learn and grow in this position of power and influence.

Flexibility Is Key

The progressive nurse leader has a flexible nature, avoiding stances and reactions that are inflexible or carved in stone. This type of nurse leader uses deep listening, self-knowledge, and fairness as cornerstones of a flexible management style.

Discipline Without Shame

Steeped in fairness and flexibility, the strong nurse leader disciplines without shame. Team members may commit errors, but the thoughtful nurse leader never stoops to shame as a means of correction.

To lead into the future, the powerful, progressive 21st-century nurse leader is fair and flexible, using deep listening and excellent communication skills to move the nursing team forward. He or she is always willing to admit mistakes and leads by example in every aspect of his or her nurse leadership style.

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