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Why Nurse Leaders Derail

Preventing and Rebounding From Leadership Failure

Bellack, Janis P., PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF; Dickow, Mary, MPA, FAAN

Nursing Administration Quarterly: April/June 2019 - Volume 43 - Issue 2 - p 113–122
doi: 10.1097/NAQ.0000000000000345
Original Articles

To be successful, nurse leaders must be able to develop and articulate a vision for their areas of responsibility, build strong relationships with those they lead, and execute strategies and actions to achieve shared goals. Emotional intelligence and mastering self, interpersonal, and team relationships, while understanding organizational culture and systems, are critical components of successful leadership. Nurse leaders must be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, be able to manage their emotions, exhibit social awareness of others' emotions, and successfully manage their relationships with others within their sphere of influence. Leaders who fail to manage themselves and their relationships with others fail to lead with clear direction and purpose, or fail to deliver results for their organizations, and risk derailing their careers. This article focuses on common behaviors and characteristics that cause leaders to derail as well as the risks for leadership failure (self-imposed, boss-imposed, situation-imposed), including common traps leaders can fall into in the first months of assuming a new leadership role. Risks for career derailment and opportunities for preventing or rebounding from leadership failure are reviewed.

MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Bellack); and Director of Strategic Initiatives, Organization for Associate Degree Nursing, Pensacola, Florida (Ms Dickow).

Correspondence: Janis P. Bellack, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, Office of the President, MGH Institute of Health Professions, 36 First Ave, Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA 02129 (

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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