Six C’s to effective nurse leadership

Nursing requires competent, confident leadership. No matter where you are in your career, you should be reflecting on your existing leadership skills and identifying areas where you can improve.

Here are six C’s to help you with effective nurse leadership: communication; confidence; creating cohesion; courage; conflict resolution; and commitment to excellence.


Effective communication skills are essential in leadership. You can’t do everything yourself. You have to be able to effectively delegate the right tasks to the right person. Communicate your needs and instructions clearly and firmly. Be clear about your expectations.

Remember to listen. Encourage staff members to have a voice; don’t let little issues build up to bigger ones based around team members not feeling like they are being heard, respected or valued.


It’s hard to follow someone who is unsure of themselves. You are in this role because of your competence and experience so back yourself. Lead with clarity, confidence and direction. Know the type of leader you want to be and lead by example. If a decision doesn’t work out reflect on it, communicate if necessary and move on. Not everyone gets it right all the time. Showing your vulnerabilities makes you human and allows other staff members to be open about their own mistakes or fears. It helps to build a resilient team.

Creating cohesion

Good leaders can motivate others and foster a culture of collaboration. Be positive; if you’re negative it’s likely your team will also have negative thinking. Show appreciation to others for their work and efforts; it creates a work ethic and supportive environment that team members want to be part of. Be accessible to colleagues; leaders who make themselves available know what’s happening, have good working relationships which lead to better outcomes.


Embrace the leadership role. Don’t be afraid to take a stand. I had a nurse leader who early on in my career told medics that nursing staff were no longer doing daily clinical observations on patients waiting for nursing home placement unless it was clinically indicated. He argued the time was better spent on attending to personal care.

Share your ideas; let doctors and management know what your patients’, staff and work areas’ require. You will develop a culture of trust and engagement and have a team fully committed to making things work.

Conflict resolution

Problem solving skills are not enough, there will be situations where you will need to deal with confrontation and conflict. If you don’t have this skill you will need to acquire it. In an often overwrought and stressful environment, this will test your capability and determine your leadership style. An effective leader is able to inspire others while also able to mitigate conflict.

Commitment to excellence

Successful leaders have a drive and commitment to deliver excellence. Identify those nurses you have admired for their skills or personal attributes. Ask them to mentor you. Have them be honest about what you need to improve or build on.

Look for opportunities to grow those skills you think you need to improve on as a leader. Attend professional leadership courses or conferences. Try to cultivate an environment of learning so that others can learn to lead.

Leadership comes from confidence, an ability to communicate effectively and being a role model. If you can define your vision, you will take others with you while promoting teamwork and commitment to excellence.

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