The role of nursing leaders is constantly evolving. As the healthcare landscape changes, so do the skills that are needed to be successful in these roles. The ideal skills for nursing leadership depend on the specific role that the nurse is taking on within the organization. However, some skills are universally essential for any nurse leader.

All healthcare facilities need nurse leaders to oversee staff members. Therefore, nurses and students considering a nursing career are encouraged to pursue advanced degrees in nursing to prepare for such roles. The University of Indianapolis MSN in nursing leadership program gives students the essential skills, knowledge and abilities to become nurse leaders. It provides preparation for the financial aspects, leadership, and laws involved in running a healthcare organization.

Leadership programs provide candidates with hands-on training in workplace management, research and literature review, personal presentation skills, critical analysis, oral and written communication, and interpersonal skill development. Through program courses, participants learn how to be effective leaders while enhancing their professional skills in the nursing profession.

Here are nine nursing leadership behaviors and qualities.


Nurse leaders should be honest and ethical in all their dealings. They should not use their power to get ahead or look after their own interests. They will only succeed if they stay true to their word and always do what is right for the organization for which they work. Leaders are role models who follow the highest standards of conduct and pursue excellence. They hold themselves and others accountable.

Emotional intelligence

Nurse leaders have emotional intelligence skills for dealing with people, especially those on their team. They possess communication and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to read people and know how to motivate them. Emotionally intelligent nurses know how to manage their emotions, both positive and negative, accordingly. They use all channels of communication effectively, demonstrating how they can relate to others and be flexible with their approaches.

Compassion and empathy

Leaders provide compassionate, supportive care to the staff, patients, and families they serve. They create an environment that promotes healing, dignity, and comfort for patients with compassionately delivered, quality service in partnership with patients and their families.

Leaders should empathize with patients and always show they care by providing compassionate care and love, even when it is difficult. They know how to give emotional support when needed, especially when there is pain involved.

Critical thinking

Nurse leaders practice rational, critical thinking in all decision-making. They use facts and experience to make informed decisions. They gather information from staff, patients and families to understand the situation better. Their thoughtful approach allows them to carefully analyze the necessary action or steps involved in implementing solutions.

Nurse leaders have a creative thinking style that allows them to solve complex problems and identify new opportunities in challenging situations. They can come up with innovative ideas and solutions to problems.

Mentorship and teaching

Leaders can mentor, encourage and teach. They are good communicators and have an excellent level of knowledge about the profession. They are open to other nurses and feel that it is their responsibility to be mentors and teachers. They recognize that they will always serve as role models for others.

Nurse leaders should be able to demonstrate they enjoy mentoring and teaching their staff by giving lessons regularly or sharing experiences with them in various team meetings and seminars.

Technology proficiency

The nursing profession requires the use of numerous technologies to support and promote quality healthcare services to patients and their families. Nurse leaders are responsible for ensuring that they and the teams they lead can access, read, comprehend and apply information through technology.

Nurse leaders stay on top of the latest technology related to their profession. They have mastered the use of the latest computer technology and the internet for improved patient care, such as health information technology.


Leaders have a strong ability to work as team members rather than individuals. They can work together with their management or executive staff to get things done without any conflicts arising. A leader prioritizes their team’s needs and makes sure they are given proper attention to increase their chances of success.


Nurse leaders respect the contributions that everyone makes toward accomplishing their goals. They value the experience, knowledge and skills that team members have to offer, and they recognize people for their accomplishments, talents, and abilities.


Nurse leaders are open-minded thinkers who are receptive to new ideas, approaches and suggestions from others. They value others’ opinions and treat them with respect, even if they do not agree with them. They also encourage their staff to try something new in their profession that they have learned in educational courses or seminars.

Improving nursing leadership

In times of change and uncertainty, nursing leaders must provide strength and stability in the healthcare delivery system. Improving nursing leadership is a process that involves all members of an organization, and it has been proven to positively affect patient outcomes.

Here are four ways to improve leadership qualities in nursing:

  • Listen: Hearing what other people say is the first step to improving leadership. Listening is a key skill that nurses should practice when communicating with patients and their families. Leaders should also listen to their team members’ suggestions to improve patient care.
  • Encourage and support team members: Nurses are required to work with other members of the healthcare team. They must ensure that they are motivating and encouraging team members to achieve their goals.
  • Understand organizational values and structure: Nurses must be familiar with the mission and values of their organization. They should also take time to learn about their organization’s structure and how it works.
  • Examine feedback: Leaders should be able to provide constructive feedback to team members about their performance. They should also know how to respond to feedback about their performance for continuous improvement.

The bottom line

Nurse leaders play a major role in maintaining high-quality patient care practice, improving staff performance and enhancing the image of the profession. They set the tone for others to follow to attain high-quality care for patients and their families. Leaders are needed because they can influence others to attain a better quality of care. To achieve this, nurses need to have an effective team that is organized and focused on meeting their objectives.