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Journal of Nursing Administration:
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0b013e318211853d
Departments: Leadership Development

The Emerging Leader: Leadership Development Based on the Magnet® Model

Benjamin, Kathleen MSN, RN, NE-BC; Riskus, Rita BSN, NE-BC; Skalla, Angela MBA, RN, NEA-BC

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Author Affiliations: Executive Spine and Joint Program (Ms Benjamin), Director Medical Surgical Nursing (Ms Riskus), Chief Nursing Officer (Ms Skalla), MacNeal Hospital, Berwyn, Illinois.

Correspondence: Ms Skalla, MacNeal Hospital, 3249 S. Oak Park Ave, Berwyn, IL 60402 (

The need for well-prepared and motivated patient care leaders is significant and growing. Building a cadre of potential candidates for nursing leadership positions is one of the many strategies involved in proactively addressing the current and projected nursing shortages. Succession planning is an approach that fills key leadership positions from a pool of qualified internal candidates. Leaders in a community-based, teaching hospital recognized the importance of effective succession planning that ensures a seamless transition when the need to fill a leadership position arises. In 2008, future leaders self-identified and joined a program that prepared them using a basic curriculum (Table 1) based on the Magnet® model. The course was taught by the incumbent nurse leaders as well as other hospital department leaders in five 8-hour sessions. This formal approach was guided by the framework of the science of caring in nursing.

Table 1
Table 1
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There were 3 groups of staff who would benefit from this learning: first, recently promoted leaders who need some didactic learning to prepare them for the new role; second, nurses who have been identified as potential leaders and are interested in a leadership position some time in the future; and third, nurses who have not been identified but are interested in potential leadership roles. It is important to create the environment that will surface potential leaders. Nurse leaders often serve as the gatekeepers of the organization's culture and need to have a planned introduction to the organization's culture and values.1

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The Program

In 2008, a 3-part series of articles described a master's-level curriculum program based on the Forces of Magnetism inspired a project.2-4 As hospital nursing leaders discussed that program, it became clear that a curriculum that would align learning with scope and standards of nursing administration would be as appropriate for aspiring leaders as it was for the master's program. The hospital leadership team created a leadership development course based on the Magnet model. The components of the new model provided the content for each of the days. The afternoon of the final session was a panel of hospital leaders including the chief executive officer, who discussed their career paths and engaged in a lively discussion with emerging leaders.

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One requirement of Magnet designation is the knowledge and expertise of the management team. The leadership team both in nursing and other areas agreed to be program faculty. It was important to the leaders that they be seen across the organization as the content experts in nursing leadership and also be visible and accessible to the staff. This interaction helped reduce silos for leaders and staff. By preparing to teach a component of the Magnet model, the leader had to develop expertise around that component. In addition, leaders were seen as mentors for this group and became invested in their success. The leaders developed clear learning objectives, and contact hours were available for each session.

The leaders began to see succession planning not as threatening to their position, but as building a group of potential leaders who were prepared to step into new roles. It allowed directors to step into new roles themselves and advance the agenda of the organization.

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The Cost

The hospital paid the wages of the staff for the 8-hour day in each of the 5 months. A few units had several participants. The intensive care unit, in particular, became a source of potential leaders because the leader encouraged the development of her staff. Faculty, because they were the management staff of the hospital, were not a direct program cost (although a great value). Participants were provided with snacks and lunch. Compared with proprietary programs that charge a fee per participant, this was a very low-cost program to the hospital that is replicable in other institutions.

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Although based on the Magnet model, the program was open to staff outside nursing. Three of the 40 participants in the first program in 2008 included a physical therapist, a respiratory therapist, and an office manager. It gave these participants the chance to assess if leadership was their calling. Several staff opted out of a management career as the discussions continued. Seventeen of the 40 participants have been promoted to leadership positions including shift supervisors, clinical coordinators, and nurse managers. The program was repeated this year, and the curriculum updated. Twenty-three additional candidates are taking part in the program and will be ready for organization opportunities. By having a group of ready and willing future leaders, it was much easier to deal with retirements, promotions, relocations, and changes that needed to occur in the leadership team.

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The program helped this organization understand the need to identify and educate prospective leaders about the organization. It helped the participants and faculty understand the Magnet structure as a framework for leadership education and development. It helped everyone appreciate the benefit of having in-house leaders prepare and teach topics as experts in the education of potential leaders. Finally, it helped the organization understand the benefit of planned succession strategy.

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1. Conley SB, Branowicki P, Hanley D. Nursing leadership orientation: a competency and preceptor model to facilitate new leader success. J Nurs Adm. 2007;37(11):491-498.

2. Thomas J, Herrin D. The executive master of science in nursing program: competencies and learning experiences. J Nurs Adm. 2008;38(1):4-7.

3. Thomas J, Herrin D. Executive master of science in nursing program: incorporating the 14 Forces of Magnetism. J Nurs Adm. 2008;38(2):64-67.

4. Thomas J, Herrin D. The Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellows Program: a model for learning in an executive master of science in nursing program. J Nurs Adm. 2008;38(3):112-115.

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