More often than not, nurse leaders will tell you that they fell into their roles. Before they knew it, they were shocked to find out they had decided to take on the leadership challenge. Although most new managers find themselves invigorated by the job and the challenges presented, consequently they may feel overwhelmed and struggle with this fresh set of responsibilities. New managers often voice concern and trepidation about the amount of accountability and responsibility they've accepted. As a new nurse leader, it's important to learn to articulate and demonstrate your core leadership values—the ideals that can provide a framework from which to guide your unit or facility.
Subscribing to a set of golden rules will assist you in communicating those core values. For a new leader to be successful, he or she must first identify the needs of staff members. Without having a solid understanding of your staff members' needs, collaborative achievement of department goals is often impossible. Having a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished guides everyone toward the common goal. Operating from this point of clarity allows you to focus on the big picture.
New leaders frequently don't understand that management is a social science and requires practice. Nurse leaders must invest a significant amount of time developing their leadership skills, just as they've developed their clinical skills over the years. Selecting a mentor is one of the first steps toward learning management skills. A mentor can provide guidance and advice, as well as be an active listener. From career challenges to successful accomplishments, mentors share their past leadership experiences and opinions to help new managers flourish.
Additionally, new leaders need to participate in learning activities to enhance their skill set. Employers often provide training and coaching classes on employee satisfaction, team building, conflict resolution, consensuses building, valuing diversity, customer service, clinical effectiveness, and financial management. These learning activities not only strengthen leadership core values, but also continue to shape and sustain a workplace environment that embraces the values of the department and the mission and vision of the institution.
New leaders should also take advantage of opportunities to network with colleagues. Networking helps you gain a healthy perspective on issues that challenge the healthcare landscape. National and local nursing management conferences provide the perfect opportunity for colleagues to exchange and identify strategies for accomplishing mutual goals and outcomes. It's imperative for all nurse leaders, novice and expert alike, to infuse core leadership values when addressing today's healthcare issues with a vision toward tomorrow.
If you're a recently promoted nurse manager, turn to page 9 for our new bimonthly column Manager Matters, where you'll find tips on successfully transitioning from direct care nurse to nurse leader.