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When Ann Mostofi, MSN, RN, began her first nursing job, she didn’t envision a future in the executive suite. She just wanted to do some good in the world.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to help people,” Mostofi told Palm Springs Life. “I’m just one of those people.”

Forty years later, as vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer for 487-bed, Magnet-recognized Eisenhower Medical Center, Mostofi is also one of those people who have made it to the top of their chosen profession. She was honored during Palm Springs Life’s fifth annual Women in Business awards in May.

Some nurses begin their careers with a lofty goal, such as CNO, in mind; others like Mostofi work hard and, in time, reach a pinnacle of the profession. Still other nurses maintain they’ll never leave the bedside to seek a leadership role, even as they’re rewarded for their dedication and determination with a progressive climb up a clinical ladder or a nurse manager position.

The fact is all nurses, no matter their current job titles, serve as leaders in healthcare. Nurses could not fulfill their duty as patient care advocates without having many of the qualities that exhibit leadership — honesty, confidence, integrity, commitment, innovation, and passion among them.

If you’ve taken a new nurse under your wing, you’ve played the role not just of the teacher but of the leader as well. If you’ve learned to communicate with colleagues, patients, and family members efficiently and effectively; make decisions on behalf of your patients or their loved ones firmly and consistently; shown ethical courage in a sticky patient care situation; or let your passion for quality patient care show in all that you do, you’re demonstrating your leadership skills.

At Eisenhower Medical Center, we encourage nurses at all levels of our organization to serve as transformational leaders who share in decision making and excel as autonomous advocates for the highest quality patient care. Whether you’re aiming for advancement or want to improve your current bedside practice, follow these five tips for expanding your nursing leadership potential:

1. Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, but it can also be a sure-fire way to sharpen your leadership skills. Seek out individuals whose leadership styles you admire and whose judgment you trust. Put your keen observation skills to work and watch the ways in which they engage with, motivate, and influence others — and not just people who they supervise, but higher-ups, too.

Notice how your mentor manages relationships (especially challenging ones), resolves conflicts, and empowers others. Ask for advice on improving your communication techniques or juggling projects and people. An effective, confident leader will be happy to share the secrets of his or her success.

Try the tactics you value, but only emulate a leadership style that comes naturally to you. Authenticity makes up a large part of successful nursing leadership. Genuine leaders develop their style of management based on their unique strengths.

And commit to paying forward the things you learn by becoming a mentor yourself. Share your knowledge with a colleague and support him or her during the inevitable challenges he or she will face. Honing in on your ability to motivate a colleague will prepare you to inspire greater numbers of individuals in future nursing leadership roles.

Take it from Mostofi, who credits a nurse early in her career with sowing the seeds for her own professional development.

“She had confidence in me,” Mostofi said. “She recommended me for positions, she gave me experiences, and she made sure that when I failed, I wasn’t devastated. I hope that I can do that for other young women and young men.”

2. Get to Know You

Nothing breeds confidence — and success as a leader — like self-awareness. Effective leaders aren’t afraid of introspection. They dig deep to understand who they are at their core. They acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, and they explore ways to improve both.

Take a good look at your clinical limitations, and seek learning opportunities to upgrade them. But don’t neglect an important gut check on your emotions, too. The more emotionally aware you are, the more alert you will be to situations, especially stressful ones, that might be better handled by keeping your emotions in check. Showing emotion is not a bad thing; you do want your passion for your career to show and inspire others. Effective leaders, however, recognize their hot buttons. They examine their emotions — and how those feelings may affect other people — before making decisions or communicating with others.

And beware of self-doubt. Learn to trust your intuition. As a nurse, your gut instincts help you in all sorts of situations, from responding to a crisis to accurately reading that “something’s not right” with a patient. That sixth sense, whether it’s innate or learned, is common to nurses and can aid in making administrative decisions as much as clinical ones.

3. Get to Know Others

Transformational leaders rank high in a quality that comes naturally to nurses: empathy.

You routinely offer empathy and compassion to your patients and their families or loved ones. Taking on an expanded nursing leadership role means transferring that same level of understanding and acceptance to your colleagues.

When you relate to what your work associates are feeling — recognizing an overworked nurse on your team, for example, or a physician struggling with a personal loss — you show a level of interest in people that engenders trust. Effective nurse leaders, whether at the bedside or in the boardroom, make it a point to engage people on their own teams and beyond. They demonstrate their genuine interest in the needs and aspirations of others. In return, they’re rewarded with the confidence and loyalty of people and organizations.

4. Get Involved

A sideline sitter never makes an impact. Challenge yourself to get in the game. You’ll not only bolster your confidence, you’ll likely become re-energized in your work.

Ask for assignments that will test your mettle — request a charge position, for instance, or volunteer to work on an organizational project. Look for opportunities to boost your communication skills, such as speaking at an event, organizing an education activity, or participating on a multidisciplinary discussion panel.

Join professional associations and volunteer to serve on committees. You’ll gain valuable connections and often the ability to bring new information back to your organization. Also, attend state and national nursing conferences, where you’ll see and learn from nurse leaders in action. During a conference, you’ll gain unparalleled opportunity to practice and perfect your networking skills in a real-time, supportive environment.

5. Brush Up on Business Stuff

There’s no getting around it: Nursing leadership roles involve more than clinical skills. Business acumen is also a must.

Be proactive about becoming business-savvy. Make it a point to review and understand the structure of your organization, as well as how decisions are made and who makes them. Devote time to learning about the healthcare industry as a whole and how challenges within the industry are being addressed.

Seek out continuing education and other learning opportunities to brush up on your time management skills and develop reliable methods for planning and prioritizing. In particular, look for activities to learn about negotiation skills (an ability with which many people, not just nurses, struggle). And discipline yourself to pay attention to not only the content of meetings you attend, but how they’re conducted.

When you’re ready to expand your leadership capabilities in nursing, we’re ready to encourage and support you. View open positions at Eisenhower Medical Center and apply for your next-level nursing job.

Originally posted on 28/6/2017

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