How to Become a Leader in Your Field

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In the current age of health care reform, nurses have increased opportunities to take on leadership roles in the workplace. From positions ensuring that quality care is delivered in large hospitals to jobs at clinics where nurse practitioners work autonomously or in collaboration with other health care professionals to deliver patient-focused care, nursing professionals have more of a hand in shaping the direction of health care in the U.S. than ever before. Consequently, there is high demand for qualified candidates who demonstrate the ability to be effective leaders.

Interested in taking on a leadership role in your field? Whether you recently completed your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN), or have been working in the field for years, advance your nursing career with these tips for developing as a leader in the realm of health care.

Develop your leadership skills

Employers are increasingly looking to hire employees with well-developed soft skills — the interpersonal abilities that help you have successful relationships with others, such as the capability to work as a member of a team and adapt to new challenges. However, hiring is not the only time when these skills are important. Soft skills also are considered when it comes to promoting from within an organization. In fact, an American Express study found that 61 percent of managers believe soft skills are the most important factor when promoting an employee. So whether you are trying to land a leadership position at a new organization or attempting to earn a promotion from within your own workplace, demonstrating your skills in these areas is critical.

According to an article by Forbes contributor Tanya Prive, the co-founder and CEO of financial services company 1000 Angels, some of the soft skills that mark an effective leader include:

  • Communication: As a nurse, you know that communication is an important part of your day. From educating patients to coordinating with coworkers, the ability to articulate information is critical in nursing. This need only increases when you take on a management role and are responsible for managing staff members.
  • Inspiration: When you are in a leadership position, you do not want your staff to listen to you only because they have to. The ability to inspire your team is important for group morale and employee retention. You need to be able to cast vision for the direction the organization is headed and encourage everyone to own a part of reaching that objective.
  • Intuition: Every day in nursing is different than the last. While you can prepare for a leadership role, there is no roadmap for managing a health care team. Sometimes, you will need to use your best judgment — and maybe “trust your gut” — when unexpected decisions arise. If you learn to trust yourself, your team will be more likely to trust your judgment, as well.
  • Delegation: At the end of the day, you cannot do it all. Part of being an effective leader is knowing when and how to share responsibilities with other staff members. If you stretch yourself too thin, you likely will end up being less productive overall.

These abilities can be developed both through workplace experience and educational opportunities, such as an online MSN program.

Look for leadership opportunities

Look for leadership opportunities

Leadership positions rarely are handed out on a silver platter. While you may occasionally be given opportunities to take on more responsibility, you should not just wait around for those chances to present themselves. If you want to work toward a management position, take the initiative to ask for additional responsibilities in your workplace to show that you are ready and able to lead.

No matter your role, the Harvard Business Review reported that you should act like a leader before you are one to demonstrate your potential. That suggestion does not mean usurping power and making decisions that are beyond your pay grade, but it might mean taking the initiative to show a new hire the ropes during a shift or organizing an event for team bonding. Talk to your manager for ideas.

Don’t underestimate even small opportunities. Being a leader is at times a thankless job and so are many of the responsibilities that can get you there. But, the payoff is more than worth it in the end.

Further your education

If you are ready to pursue a leadership role and want to build on your existing knowledge of nursing, consider taking your education — and career — a step farther by earning the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Leadership degree through Bradley’s online program. The DNP takes a deeper dive into nursing theory and practice to prepare you for advanced leadership roles in areas such as nursing research and executive management positions. By pursuing higher education, you not only will receive the education necessary to advance to a new position, but you also will demonstrate to employers that you are committed to pursuing excellence in the field of nursing.