Are all nurse mangers leaders? Although leadership and management monikers are often interchanged in conversation, the reality is that being a leader requires very different skills than that of a manager. This article discusses those differences and explores what they can mean to you as a nurse.
Nurse managers have decision-making authority over a certain group of people and control the processes in an organization or department. Some of their responsibilities include creating and maintaining a budget, overseeing staff scheduling and conflicts, ensuring patient and staff satisfaction and strategically planning and implementing processes to help achieve organizational goals.
Many people believe nurse managers are also leaders, but that is not always the case. Leadership has been defined many ways, but most authorities on the subject agree that leadership involves two major components: the ability to influence a group of people toward a common goal and the development of a vision. Leaders are known to be good mentors, have expertise in their area of work and seek out learning opportunities to increase their knowledge.
Everyone cannot be a leader, and managers who are not leaders are not necessarily bad! However, when a manager is also a great leader it creates an ideal situation. Recognizing the differences between leadership and management can help you navigate your own career and better understand the character traits of those around you. Business Insider further details trait differences between managers and leaders, as noted below:
- Managers plan the guidelines.
- Leaders set the direction and get input from the team before implementing any changes.
- Managers will try to save money and minimize risks.
- Leaders are willing to take risks for the long-term rewards.
- Managers attempt to stick to the original approved plans.
- Leaders have or create the flexibility to change the plan as the situation changes.
- Managers accept the status quo and do not want to “rock the boat”.
- Leaders seek better and more efficient ways to complete tasks and projects.
- Managers think of short-term wins.
- Leaders look at long-term payoffs.
- Managers recognize hard work.
- Leaders go beyond this to motivate their team to continue the great work they are doing.
- Managers tend to make decisions that make the most sense.
- Leaders vote with their heart to reach beyond their limitations and see how new and innovative ideas can be implemented.
- Managers do things right.
- Leaders do the right thing.
Think about nurse managers who you consider to be good leaders. You may find that they have common traits and approaches to their work:
- They allot extra time for their staff to participate in hospital-wide committees.
- They create an environment where staff feel comfortable asking questions and challenging the status quo about “the way we have always done things.”
- They acknowledge when a plan that they implemented is not achieving the intended goals and redirect it as needed while asking for staff input.
- They support their staff in addressing a healthcare professional who is not following protocol.
- They assist their staff when they are overburdened with difficult patients, a high census or even burnt-out.
- They recognize staff members who have the respect of the team and influence the team to be the best they can be.
- They foster teamwork and accountability within their teams.
Look at your management and work style. Are you a manager, a leader or both? If you are incorporating the traits listed above in your position, well done! And if there is room for improvement, then pick an area that you would like to develop and work on it. Find a mentor who can help you develop your interpersonal skills or take some leadership classes. You may be amazed at the results. When managers are able to embrace these leadership skills, they are more apt to develop winning teams of high functioning nurses and healthcare professionals who recognize their expertise, respect them for their flexibility and support, and embrace best practices to deliver high quality patient care.