Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Nurse Leader? 6 Must-Have Leadership Skills in Nursing

A program like Goodwin College’s Master’s in Nursing is the right springboard for many nurses looking to land a leadership position in the field. But before you start pursuing that trajectory to the top, you might be wondering whether you actually have what it takes! Which leadership skills are essential? Will you be able to face the challenges? Can you stick the landing and prosper in manager’s role? An MSN degree will teach you both the hard and soft skills needed to become a leader in nursing. First, though, you should decide if this is the right path for you.

1. Nurse Managers and Nurse Administrators have a team mentality

Leadership is all about big-picture thinking, and the big-picture always includes the team. If you’re in a leadership role, you will have to constantly consider the voices around you, and offer the nurses on your team the tools needed to do their best possible job. This means that nurse leaders are also close listeners, proficient at establishing goals, and have the ability to follow-through.

2. Good team leadership includes a healthy dose of confidence: in oneself and in others.

Leaders should be confident in their team’s skills, and trust that when they hand over the reins to let others do their jobs, that the jobs will be done well. In turn, this leadership skill builds the team’s overall confidence, sets a positive tone, and positions everyone for success.

3. Communication skills are essential for nurse leaders to possess.

Listening, as we’ve already touched on, is the first key to communication. Clarity of delivery is the second key. Others must understand your message! And, beyond simply understanding, others must feel motivated and believe in you as a leader. Insisting on a culture of truth in the workplace is an essential leadership skill, and the best way to encourage workplace confidence in your capabilities. Leading by example will only be successful if the team believes in both your skills and your code of ethics.

4. Good nurse leaders are caring.

It seems like this point should go unsaid, as we are discussing the “caring professions,” but we can’t overstate the importance of compassion in the nursing field. Caring isn’t only for patients, but also caring for staff, and for oneself. The best working environments are those in which staff feel connected to leadership. This means that as a leader, you should be  accommodating when nurses ask for legitimate time off or for schedule changes. Taking the time to learn about staffs’ families and celebrating successes when credit is deserved, is another way to appropriately show that you care. Of course, you must set boundaries and remain in control, but compassion goes a long way in making staff feel valued and respected.

5. Nurse leaders also muster up the courage to reflect.

Nurses are trained to keep their emotions in check and perceive situations logically, however, this does not mean that nurses should ignore their sense of self-awareness. Great leaders in nursing are constantly reflecting, asking what they could improve upon, how they can make systems better, and which resources are available to help develop their skills. Accepting feedback from peers and superiors is one sign of a leadership mindset. Leadership skills in nursing include developing a healthy perspective on one’s own work and drawing upon the ability to activate positive change.

6. If you want to become a leader in nursing, you’ll need to devote yourself to a future of continued learning.

Because technology is constantly developing, it is critical that nurse leaders be at the forefront of new inventions and discoveries so that they have the knowledge to integrate improved equipment and techniques into current practices. Patients expect to receive up-to-date care, and as a manager not only of a nursing team, but of the tools available to them, nurse leaders accept this responsibility. Continuing education with Online Learning or Conferences, provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, is just one way that nurse leaders can constantly update their knowledge and skills.

So, do you think you have what it takes to become a nurse leader? Exploring the graduate nursing curriculum of Goodwin College’s MSN program can lend you great insight into the learnings you’ll accomplish. Make sure that you allow yourself some time to think about the personal qualities you’ll need to develop in tandem with those professional skills.

Goodwin College’s MSN nursing program is specifically designed for registered nurses looking to become leaders, administrators, managers, and educators in their field. For those who are already working full-time but desire career advancement, our MSN courses can be taken completely online. Learn more today by calling Goodwin College at 800-889-3282 or by visiting