The key skills of effective nurse leaders

Nursesare passionate about caring for people in need. They play many diverse roles and assume responsibilities in the healthcare system of all countries, and they work at different levels – from fresh entrants, to professionals at top positions as policymakers, administrators, and nursing leaders.

Nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and other sectors, including dedicated medical care teams, during crisesanddisasters. Wherever they are, they must lead teams to create a learning environment forpatients, their caretakers, and the wider community. Their presence as advocates and role models posits them as needing good leadership skills, especially during their healthcare responsibilities.

Essential skills to become an effective nurse leader

A nurse leader, or one aspiring to achieve a leadership position in nursing, needs leadership qualities in order to be a successful nursing leader. The qualities and behaviors expected from nurse leadership are the abilities and strengths to help, take and guide initiatives, oversee nursing processes, direct nurses, and other staff, and manage teams and patients.

Emotional intelligence

In healthcare systems, nurse leaders help peers and trainee nurses to develop emotional intelligence to cope with the stresses that nurses face during routine challenges. Emotionally intelligent nurse leaders are very sensitive to their and team members’ wellness and psychological health. The absence of emotional intelligence can result in emotional exhaustion, poor performance, and poor team collaboration.


Nurse leaders need to have integrity and strong moral principles and be honest and fair. Integrity also implies honesty, confidence, trustworthiness, and dependability. Nurse leaders’ integrity helpsthem make the right choices in critical situations and when making up treatment plans. It also inspires others to do the same. Nurse leaders with integrity are committed to offering the best healthcare services to patients and their families and society.


Nurse leaders are expected to promote high-quality and safe patient care, improve nurse-patient relationships, and ensure their teams’ excellence. Nurses are dedicated and committed to their profession; nurse leaders demonstrate this through their perseverance in caregiving and by demonstrating integrity, loyalty, passionfor the profession, and emotional skills.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is needed for nurse leaders to positively influence the problem-solving and decision-making tasks they face each day. Nurse leaders guide trainee nurse practitioners in using critical thinking to make decisions in response to the complex situations that nurses face.

Excellent communication skills

Effective communication skills are crucial for nurse leaders to communicate clearly with nurses, other staff, and patients. Verbal and nonverbal communication skills include observing, listening, and speaking. Clear communication by nurse leaders reduces errors, ensures patient safety, and promotes positive patient experiences.


Mentorship is part of the duty of nurse leaders. They mentor their team members and others by sharing their knowledge and experience with other nurses to help them learn and achieve goals. Being a good mentor shows the nurse leaders’ confidence in their abilities and helps them build trust with team members.

Strong ethics

A good nurse leader is one with strong ethics. Ethical nurse leaders provide support and listen to the concerns of those that are around them – especially those who they need to support. They are expected to follow the basic ethical principles of benevolence, non-maleficence, fidelity, accountability, honesty, and patient autonomy, as spelled out by appropriate nursing profession regulators.


A successful nurse leader exhibits true professionalism in the profession, improving team communication and accountability and making the work environment more positive. Professionalism promotes better patient care and higher patient satisfaction.

Respect for others

Nurse leaders must not disrespect others even if they do not agree with their opinions or views. Respect for others includes showing courtesy and kindness, being polite, and no showing favoritism or discrimination. Nurse leaders who showrespect for others effectively reduce workplace tensions and conflicts and receive respect from their superiors, peers, and teams.


When nursing leaders show accountability, they develop a culture of support, trust, and dedication, whichleads to excellent patient care. The nurse leader should always be responsible for theiractions and accept the consequences, good or bad, of those actions. A nurse leader with quality accountability helps reducetension within their team, increasing trust and improvingrelationships with patients and co-workers, juniors, and organizations.

Developing leadership qualities

The following are the top ways to acquire and hone nursing leadership qualities and behaviors:

  • Become an active listener
  • Continue learning
  • Improve technology proficiency
  • Practice a positive approach
  • Collect and examine your feedback
  • Support and develop team members

While continuing their jobs, nurses can learn leadership qualities through nursing leadership courses from reputed and accredited online courses. Baylor University’sDoctor of Nursing Practice – Executive Nurse Leadership (DNP-ENL) program is one such program that will teach nurses the skills, knowledge, and competencies essential for becoming influential nursing leaders. This online program will teach students to make data-driven decisions and work on transformative care models.

Bad qualities every nurse leader should avoid

Successful nurse leaders understand the difference between good and bad nursing leadership qualities. Every nurse leader should avoid certain traits, some of whichare:

  • Unethical behaviors
  • Poor communication or not listening
  • Disrespect for colleagues and patients and their families
  • Dishonesty
  • Blaming others
  • Self-centeredness or lack of professionalism


Effective nurse leaders influence many aspects of nursing care for patients, nurses, healthcare staff, and the organization as a whole. There are several must-have qualities in nurse leaders, which have been outlined in this article and will help you to become the best leader you can be.

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