What makes the best nurse leaders? Education and a mind that’s open to learning are two of the main ingredients. Here is an experience that proves it:
Many years ago, I was teaching a Nuts and Bolts Leadership course at a large medical center where I worked as the Chief of Employee Education. The course was designed for beginning leaders from all departments in the hospital.
One day, I received a call from a highly-regarded senior nurse leader in the organization asking me if he could attend. I told him that of course he could but he might be familiar with much of the content. He came faithfully to all five sessions of this 40-hour course. At the end of the course, he told me that he had learned a great deal and added, “This will make me a better leader. I never want to stop learning.” He wisely realized that leadership is a journey not a destination and there is always more to be learned.
Learning to be Leaders
At an earlier point in history, it was believed that people were born with their leadership traits and skills. While there are natural leaders, most of us evolve as leaders over time. Today, there is strong evidence that the best leaders are the best learners. And in our field, this means advancing your nursing education in differeng ways.
In their study of leaders around the world, Kouzes and Posner identify 10 truths about leadership in their book The Truth about Leadership. One of those truths is that leadership is a pattern of practices, behaviors, skills and abilities that can be learned. Developing expertise in leadership takes time; there is no fast track to leadership.
Meanwhile, in the book Outlier: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell observed that becoming an expert in anything takes about 10,000 hours of practice across 10 years. That amounts to about 2.7 hours each day.
The challenge to continue to grow and learn as a nurse leader is one that each person must accept for themselves. Personal development is just that—personal. What works for one person may not work for you. Here are 10 suggestions for activities to use to keep learning as a leader:
- Buy and read at least one leadership book twice a year.
- Attend leadership development opportunities offered by your employer, even if it means going on your own time.