10 Essential Characteristics and Skills of a Nurse Leader

career as a nurse

If you are interested in becoming a nurse leader, there are a variety of challenges that you will be presented with on a day to day basis, such as knowing how to manage resources, creating goals, as well as collaborating with other community and hospital leaders.

To be an effective nurse leader, there are key traits that you must possess. Whether it’s knowing how to communicate effectively with colleagues or learning how to work well under pressure, here are some of the essential characteristics that can help set you apart from other candidates.


Understandably, the key characteristic that you will need to possess is strong leadership skills. With all eyes on you, knowing how to conduct yourself in a professional manner is a must. In order to build trust and authentic relationships with staff, you will need to learn how to guide your team towards success. The nursing sector can be highly stressful, and with numerous duties expected from you, being passionate about your role and motivating others to strive for perfection is crucial.

Collaborative and Team Building

Good leadership is all about establishing good working relationships with your colleagues. Working together cooperatively and effectively should be your number one priority, however, finding the right balance is not always straightforward. Nurse leaders need to know how to work well in a team, helping to make sure tasks are completed on time and according to plan. As a nurse leader, you will need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team, as well as learn how to delegate roles effectively.

Excellent Communication

Whether you’re engaging with staff members, patients, or other nurse leaders, knowing how to communicate effectively is vital in your profession. Developing good communication skills can help to:

  • Build trust amongst your team
  • Improve productivity in the workplace environment
  • Increase engagement
  • Provide clarity and direction
  • Identify and resolve problems

Not only should you possess excellent communication skills as a nurse leader, but you should also be on the lookout for how your team engages with one another. If you have noticed any problems with how your colleagues work, it’s up to you to nip problems in the bud before they become a serious issue later down the line.

Expert Decision-Making Skills

As a nurse leader, it will be up to you to make final decisions that can further improve or potentially damage your operation. To make the correct decisions, you will need to base your final say on empirical science and research to ensure you achieve the desired results. Unfortunately, decisions in complex healthcare environments can be hard to judge, so you will need to base your thoughts on your vast experience.

Time Management

In the healthcare sector, every minute counts. Each patient who walks through the door will have varying needs, so it’s important that you deliver excellent care in a swift manner. Understanding the importance of time management is critical, especially if a life is on the line. As a nurse leader, you will need to make sure that your team knows where they stand to ensure the patient receives the best care possible. Possessing time management skills can help to:

  • Keep you focused
  • Accomplish more in a shorter period of time
  • Lower stress levels
  • Become more efficient in your role


Whether you’re helping a patient or supporting a member of staff, respecting and valuing their opinions and thoughts is paramount to becoming a successful nurse leader. How you conduct yourself to others can go a long way, especially when it comes to gaining respect and trust from peers. Nurse leaders are passionate, dynamic influencers who should want to inspire change in orders. To accomplish this, you will need to take on board other people’s points of view.

Attention to Detail

As a nurse leader, every action you make will have a consequence. Overseeing others comes with huge responsibility, so it’s important that you develop and perfect your attention to detail to reduce the risk of medical errors. To succeed as a nurse leader, you will need to be passionate about your role and be focused at all times to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Active Listening

As a nurse leader, not only is it crucial to pay attention to detail, but you also need to have the ability to listen to what your staff and patients say. Some of the benefits of active listening include:

  • Avoiding any misunderstandings
  • Building relationships
  • Improving productivity
  • Overcoming disagreements

For colleagues and patients to trust your judgment, you need to take into account their personal points of view. Listening to their needs will help you come up with effective strategies to provide excellent care, regardless of their background or culture.

Qualifications and Credentials

To perform your job correctly, it’s vital that you have the correct qualifications and credentials in place. If you’re passionate about helping others succeed and like the idea of entering into a managerial role, an executive nurse leader program can help you on your career path. Throughout the course, you will gain expert knowledge into what it takes to become a successful nurse leader.


To be taken seriously as a nurse leader, you will need to exude confidence no matter who you encounter. In a clinical environment, confidence is not just about thinking that you know everything, but rather having faith in your training and abilities. Showcasing the impression of assuredness is crucial too, especially when engaging with your team and patients. If you appear nervous and uneasy when you’re about to perform a basic procedure, it’s likely that your colleagues won’t have trust in what you say. Portraying yourself as a calm and confident individual can help you flourish as a nurse leader.

If you want to be at the forefront of the nursing sector and believe you have the key skills and attributes listed above, becoming a nurse leader may be the perfect route for you to take. Before embarking on this career, make sure that you read up on the duties expected of you, as well as the qualifications you need to qualify as a nurse leader.