Seven Influential Traits of Leaders Who Transform People

Here at Transform Nursing, I invite all nurses to embark on this amazing journey that will transform the practice, and awaken in you the influential leader that will make a difference in the lives of so many people today and in the years to come. This journey is a very personal one, yet you will also need the guidance tools that are available in training we provide at Transform Nursing to enhance your leadership skills and perspectives in many powerful ways.

As we begin this quest to become a better version of ourselves in the practice, we should be prepared to encounter challenges that will tremendously impact people we serve, families, communities, nations, and of course, our very own well-being.

Thought to ponder: Before drifting to sleep every night, do you evaluate your day, and ask yourself what you have accomplished in the past 24-hours that have truly made a difference?

As nurse leaders, regardless of where we practice nursing care, we have the ability to make a difference and save lives every single day. What’s more, we can make it a habit as leaders to reflect not only on the impact that we make but crucially on the impact being made by those nurses that we lead. Every single day, knowing that we have saved or made a life better, should give us a strong sense of reward and personal fulfillment that is too often beyond words.

It may also be crucial that we ask ourselves the basic questions pertaining to the leadership potential within us, on a regular basis: the why, how, what, when and where.

Who are leaders?

All nurses are leaders in their own right. Whether born or made, we certainly are viewed as trustworthy leaders. This is with reference to results from Gallop polls on honesty and ethics in professions.

Whether as bedside nurses, school nurses, community nurses, instructors, or administrators, nurses will lead their units or organizations in informal to formal ways. This is inherent in most if not all of us because we are driven by a desire to make meaningful differences in the lives of those we serve.

With a complex world needing more and more quality leaders, many nurses often become influential leaders whether or not they intended to be one at the start.

Exploring the Critical Characteristics of Nurse Leaders

To be effective and influential nurse leaders, we should develop the ability to inspire a vision from a wealth of ethical values. Equally important, we should learn the ability to perceive problems in novel ways. As a leader with substance, we should communicate a sense of humility that values the organizational mission over and above our own personal agenda. 

Of course, there are many professional and personal characteristics that are crucial for nurses in leadership roles. One interesting trait is the Sudoku thinking (Weeks, 2012). Leaders who possess Sudoku thinking have the ability to predict both unintended consequences, as well as desired impacts of a decision. A significant aspect of this trait is knowing you are leading well, and are able to understand possible reactions coming from the people around you, especially those you serve and govern, so you can make the wisest of choices.

Why be a Nurse Leader?

Many nurses believe that the aim of leadership is to accomplish the work of an organization. But in essence, true leadership achieves so much more than simply generating organizational outcomes. Genuine leadership TRANSFORMS people and the organization as a whole so that better changes are achieved.

So when you desire to be a leader, you not only serve to accomplish goals and objectives but passionately desire to better the organization even after you have left. 

Thus, the journey to becoming an influential nurse leader also transforms YOU as a person. The knowledge, skills, and character one acquires and develops during the course of becoming a leader changes you holistically. Needless to say, your very own character will be refined at deeper levels as you embark on this exciting and life-changing leadership journey.

How Should Nurses Lead?

It is my goal in Transform Nursing to help nurses engage meaningfully in whole new leadership activities that will transform your perspective and even leadership style. I will support and encourage you to confidently take action even at times when others feel uncomfortable such as in situations where social justice, diversity, inclusion, and cultural differences are in focus. 

Too many times, we are hesitant to take bold action on matters of importance. Some nurses would just wait for others to tell them that it’s the right time to take action. Perhaps we lack the courage or are fearful of being viewed in a negative light. Most of the time we also feel too cautious to receive adverse criticisms or be labeled as “aggressive” or “pushy”. But to live up to the leadership challenge definitely requires courage to move forward despite being fearful, despite the many odds. As nurse leaders, it is important that we be bold and exert effort and resources to keep pushing forward.

Nurse leaders should importantly also polish their skills in leading in a collaborative manner. If we fail to perform as a collaborative nurse leader, our value will be diminished. 

When Should You Lead?

Inevitably, nurse leaders will find themselves in situations with ample opportunity to lead. But it is also important that we identify situations when we should fulfill the leadership role or when it is best to empower someone else to lead instead.

One formula according to Weeks (2017) to help decide when to lead is this: opportunity + need + passion. We tend to notice needs all around us as nurses. Learn to pay attention to the needs that stir your passion. Looking for doors of opportunities will guide you in making decisions on when to invest your time, effort and abilities. When you have found where opportunity, need and passion unite, then you have found potential experiences and venue that will give meaning and value to your leadership calling. 

You may also ask questions such as the following:

  1. What organization or who will value my leadership?
  2. How can I prepare myself to be an effective leader?
  3. In what venues can I best serve as a leader?

Here in Transform Nursing, I will help you explore the leadership potential in you, and possibly answer many more questions applicable to your practice as a nurse leader.

The tools in Transform Nursing will prepare you for the challenging, and equally rewarding role of serving as a leader in nursing. It is my aim to enrich nurses through absorbing insights in my training. I will guide you in evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses so that the journey to true leadership will be extra fulfilling. I hope that you will choose to be a courageous leader who will voice out for all nurses regardless of color, race or creed. Enjoy the journey nurse friends!

Transforming Nursing Through Leadership

Being a staff nurse for many years in a critical care unit, Nurse Flora has experienced different leadership styles from nurse managers, nurse clinicians, hospital and nursing administration, as well as from her own colleagues, or the more senior nursing staff.

But throughout her journey as a nurse, there is one particular senior nurse manager who caught her attention from her first week as a novice nurse, up until now, over five years after she has left the bedside. Currently, Flora is working as a nurse instructor in a local university, and it is a major part of how she teaches that she imparts real-life lessons on how it is to be an effective leader and role model to her nursing students. Madam Z, the inspirational nurse manager who has etched a mark in Flora, plays the lead role in the picture of an influential leader that she depicts to her undergraduate nursing students. It is only recently that she has come to realize that Madam Z was an epitome of an influential and transformational leader.

Seven Influential Traits of Leaders who Transform People

  1. Transformational leaders give rewards to their staff and go the extra mile to satisfy other unmet needs of her subordinates (i.e. intellectual and emotional needs). “I remember Madam Z giving me a pat at the shoulder after a long day’s work, with a simple thank you or words of encouragement, and always with a big smile when she appreciates my little accomplishments (and struggles) during a shift,” Flora says.
  2. They create supportive environments where responsibility is shared, and the staff feel safe to become creative, innovate, and take risks! “She delegated tasks to everyone in the unit, which made even nurse orientees feel trusted and accountable. Teamwork was at play under her leadership, and everybody had a voice and the venue to speak out,” she adds.
  3. These leaders embody four essential components in their leadership style: individual consideration, idealized influence, inspirational motivation and intellectual stimulation. 
  4. Influential leaders confidently communicate their vision to staff, while acknowledging organizational limitations.
  5. The right tools and education are needed to encourage the development of influential leadership among nurses.
  6. Transformational leaders are those who create significant changes in both followers and the institution with which they are associated with.
  7. These leaders have deep internal ideas and values. And they motivate followers by appealing to higher levels of ideas and sets of moral values. As a consequence, followers act to sustain the greater good and support working environments where responsibility is shared. 

At Transform Nursing, we care for nurse leaders. We provide training to give them the tools and confidence they need, and tackle topics like social justice, culture, diversity, and inclusion.

Leaders Who Make A Difference

According to evidence, transformational leaders are favored because they have what it takes to hone potential future generations of leaders under their supervision. The new generation of leaders has been shown to be proficient in innovating effective solutions to the profession’s most crucial issues (Ward, 2012).

What Influential Leaders Know

Leaders like Madam Z know how to balance complex demands in rather unstable working environments, as this serves as a stepping stone to formulating healthy organizations that ensure high-quality care for clients, their families, and communities. These individuals are competent and knowledgeable in planning strategically so that their efforts are acknowledged and received in full.

In general, influential leaders are effective regardless of culture. But the level of effectiveness of the leader also depends to some extent on cultural values of individuals in the working environment (Spreitzer et al., 2005). 

How Is Effectiveness Measured?

A leader is known to be effective by looking at the relationship between the objectives he or she sets, and the outputs that are achieved. Logically, the more the outputs contribute to the goals set, the more effective the unit is (Surakka, 2008).

A leader is also known to be effective when he or she is able to motivate and empower the staff in the organization, in levels in line with the expertise of the workforce.

Here are some guidelines on how to become an effective transformational nurse leader:

  1. Leaders need to acknowledge and value contributions of his or her staff, within flexible working environments that are staff-friendly.
  2. You should align performance appraisal goals to staff development plans for each staff member. Evaluation should acknowledge a staff’s individual contributions and areas for improvement in accordance with the vision and mission of your organization.
  3. Leaders need to be dynamically educated to assist in timely change and development goals within healthcare. In this light, continuing education needs to be equitable and accessible for all nurses.
  4. Leadership audits should be a priority of nurse leaders for check and balance, together with regular audits of nursing staff.
  5. Leaders should ensure that passionate, creative and effective individuals with vision, and who have the potential to challenge the service are hired and developed within the system.

Fact: Forcing culture on people doesn’t work, making it “mandatory” doesn’t work, but making it matter does. Point:  We need to normalize this conversation. 

Evidence has shown that when nurse educators are uncomfortable talking about issues of race and class in health care settings, students don’t get to engage in deep and authentic discussion about how much race matters in healthcare delivery.  Race and health are intricately connected.  According to Dr. David Williams, Harvard Public Health professor, everyday discrimination can increase the likelihood of cardiovascular incidents, abdominal obesity and breast cancer.

In addition, we know that there is a lack of ethnic diversity in nursing care which creates an environment in which patients who are ethnically diverse may not feel comfortable with providers they don’t perceive understand their needs.   Based on the philosophy of culturally responsive teaching, I will share how nurse educators can assist nurses to build social justice dynamics and health equity into the care they provide to patients.

Culturally responsive teaching strategy, as a nursing framework, will increase creative tension in which the nursing student and educator alike will learn together how to face the challenges of implementing a working strategic plan for overcoming systemic racism in healthcare.  According to the ANA “the consequences for ignoring discriminatory behaviors and acts include an ever increasing gap in health care disparities and negation of our professional values”

Let my organization assist you with creating a strategic plan for inclusive learning and leadership. We know that one off session on cultural competency do not bridge the gap.  We need cross-pollination practices across nursing structures to focus on bringing equity, social justice and community collaborations into nursing spaces. 

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