10 Traits And Skills Every Successful Nurse Leader Must Possess

Nurse Leader

Besides expanding the job’s role, exhibiting effective nursing leadership is critical to improving healthcare services in any medical facility. To do that, nurses can study interdisciplinary leadership techniques and put them into practice to ensure their teams are motivated to offer the highest quality of patient care. But before you jump into it all, you must learn the traits, skills, and competencies essential to become a practical nurse leader.

We know it is not always easy to try something new, especially when working a full-time job. But don’t stress about it because we are here to help you improve your expertise as a nurse leader. Here’s a list of what we believe are a successful nurse leader’s most essential skills or traits that will help you get started.

Continuous professional development is a competency that nurse leaders must uphold throughout their professional lives. It enables them to maintain an up-to-date skillset and foresee any changes or challenges in the nursing practice. Pursuing a post-graduate degree centered on leadership and navigating the industry to offer guidance can help nurses progress their careers. Fortunately, full-time nurses can leverage flexible learning opportunities, such as an online DNP program, and manage academic growth alongside regular shift hours.  Moreover, continuing education can also take the form of credentials or certifications, which can improve specific skills and general practice.

  • Decision-making skills

Nurse leaders often deal with situations that require small and large decisions. These decisions can range from formulating guidelines for the nursing team to delivering treatment in the most effective way possible. Nurse leaders are looked up to by resident nurses and other junior nurses for day-to-day decision-making and words of wisdom. So this skill is a must-have! Decision-making abilities that are clear and useful will result in more organized work and better care for patients.

  • Problem-solving skills

While nurses receive medical knowledge and mentoring throughout their education, on-the-job training is the most appropriate way to shape a nurse’s problem-solving abilities. Although years of experience can help hone this skill, some nurses are born with superior problem-solving abilities as part of their person. Problem-solving skills are essential in leadership because nurses spend the most one-on-one time with patients and are often in charge of immediate care. Even seemingly insignificant decisions can have far-reaching consequences and result in adverse patient outcomes if made inaccurately.

  • Commitment to excellence 

Nurse leaders are passionate about their purpose, and their perseverance in the caregiving setting demonstrates this. Leaders may assess performance biannually to foster this trait in new nurses. Regardless of the technique used to enhance nurses’ performance, all nurse leaders try to instill a commitment to excellence in their charges. They do that by providing excellent service so that trainees can gain knowledge from their examples.

  • Having a service-oriented outlook

The amount of work that nurse leaders must coordinate during busy times can be daunting. No matter how much pressure they are under, good leaders should prioritize achieving high levels of patient satisfaction. However, from a leadership standpoint, a personalized focus on patient satisfaction is insufficient. Effective nurse leadership also entails a commitment to creating a service-oriented culture that all staff members must embody.

Nurse leaders can accomplish this through deliberate actions, such as training nurses and other frontline workers. They can use scripts to guide interactions with the public. Implementing such systems contributes to creating a positive environment that is cordial, inviting, and comfortable for patients and their families, even during hectic or frustrating times.

  • Physical endurance 

Being a nurse leader necessitates twisting, bending, lifting, standing, and regularly turning, sometimes for extended periods. While medical facilities provide equipment and training to make these tasks less arduous, it does not alleviate many physical requirements of working for 12 hours a day. Of course, nurses’ roles require less strenuous activity than others, such as surgeons. Still, stamina is needed to be productive and respond to emergencies on time. Thus, being hands-on and physically active is essential if you wish to thrive as a nurse leader.

  • Empathy 

With nurses caring for thousands of patients throughout their careers, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a “nonclinical” person. A good nurse leader empathizes with each patient, making a genuine attempt to put themselves in the patient’s shoes. Nurse leaders who practice compassion are more likely to treat their patients as “folks” and focus on person-centered care instead of strictly following stringent guidelines. When patients are privileged enough to encounter these qualities of a good nurse leader, their care experience is enhanced.

  • Political intelligence 

Politics is all around us and is a component of every workplace, including hospitals and clinics. Hence, nurse leaders must make sound political choices if they wish to be successful. Nurse leaders must recognize the nitty-gritty of interpersonal relationships, informal power structures, and communication at work. By correctly interpreting these various social situations, they can act appropriately when the occasion arises and serve as role models for other staff.

  • Dispute resolution

Conflict is inevitable in any organization, including the healthcare sector. Conflict resolution, an essential skill, enables nurse leaders to resolve issues while improving productivity, patient satisfaction, and teamwork. Conflict resolution is also crucial in developing treatment plans and diagnoses for patients when medical team members have opposing viewpoints.

  • Time management 

Managing countless patients, competing priorities, and stressful care settings during a 12-hour shift is not easy. The readiness to manage time is a crucial personality trait for nursing. Other than professional responsibilities, setting aside time for self-care is also an essential aspect of time management. Refusing to take a quick break or regroup during a strenuous routine may cause nurses to burn out. This fatigue is detrimental to everyone involved in the care process.


Being a nurse leader, particularly in the healthcare field, is pretty challenging. Most people aren’t born leaders, but they learn and develop some skills over time, and so can you. By developing the traits and skills listed above, you can also carve your path to success. After all, the importance of leadership in nursing will never be understated because nurse leaders are responsible for creating positive changes and making decisions in the healthcare environment. And only a properly equipped and knowledgeable person should be allowed to take on this role. So gather all the experience and qualities and be the best possible version of a nurse leader.