22 Leadership Qualities in Nursing Every Nurse Leader Must-Have in 2024

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a nurse leader or aspiring to achieve a leadership position in nursing? Have you wondered, "What are the leadership qualities in nursing every nurse leader must-have to be successful?” If this sounds like you, this article has information you could find helpful. Throughout this article, you will discover 22 leadership qualities in nursing every nurse leader must-have to be successful in 2024 and learn why developing strong leadership qualities is crucial for nurse leaders.

What Exactly is a Nursing Leadership Quality?

Nursing leadership qualities and behaviors are the abilities and strengths demonstrated by leaders to help guide initiatives, oversee processes, and direct employees toward achieving goals. When nurse leaders develop these characteristics and demonstrate them in everyday practice, they become influential in shaping strong nurse-patient and interprofessional relationships.

Are Leadership Qualities a Must-Have for Every Type of Nurse Leader?

Leadership qualities in nursing are necessary for all nurses, not just nurses with leadership positions. Whether you are a director of nursing, a team leader, or a clinical nurse, the qualities that are characteristic of good nurse leaders are characteristics all nurses should aspire to achieve.

5 Reasons Why Every Nurse Leader Must Have Great Leadership Qualities

There is a difference between having the title of a leader and being a true leader in action. It is essential for every nurse leader to develop great leadership qualities. Here are a few reasons why nurse leaders should strive to develop strong leadership skills.

1. Good leadership qualities in nursing are vital for strengthening the integration of effective, safe, high-quality patient care.
2. Strong leadership in nursing creates a positive work environment.
3. Great leadership qualities in nursing promote positive patient experiences and outcomes.
4. Strong nursing leadership is influential in reducing errors in nursing care which helps reduce healthcare costs.
5. Nurse leaders with excellent leadership qualities inspire others to put forth their best efforts.

What are the Leadership Qualities in Nursing Every Nurse Leader Must-Have to Be Successful?

(Learn about the 22 great nursing leadership qualities every nurse leader must-have to be successful in 2024.)

1. Integrity

What is it:

Integrity is the quality of having strong moral principles, firm adherence to moral values, and being honest and fair. In nursing leadership, integrity means practicing forthrightness, keeping confidence, and being trustworthy.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

It is important for nurse leaders to have high integrity for several reasons. Integrity makes others view you as trustworthy and dependable, and when you demonstrate those behaviors, it inspires others to do the same. Nurse leaders with high integrity are devoted to offering the best healthcare services to patients and their families, which helps improve patient outcomes.

2. Critical Thinking

What is it:

Critical thinking is defined as the mental process of skillful and active perception, synthesis, analysis, and evaluation of collected data or information. Critical thinking skills are performed through observation, communication, and experiences that lead to decisions for action. It is essential for skillful, safe, and efficient nursing interventions.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Critical thinking is one of the characteristics of a nurse leader associated with action. Critical thinking can positively influence the problem-solving and decision-making tasks nurse leaders face each day. With strong critical-thinking skills, nurse leaders challenge assumptions, generate creative solutions to problems, and understand the cause of patient and work problems.

3. Excellent Communication Skills

What is it:

Communication skills are the basis of the exchange of verbal and nonverbal cues and information to relay messages. Communication skills include listening, observing, and speaking. Nonverbal communication can be in the form of written notes, emails, hand gestures, or facial expressions.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Effective communication skills are crucial leadership qualities in nursing. Nurse leaders must communicate well with patients, their families, and members of the interdisciplinary team. Effective communication skills in nursing help ensure patient and worker safety and promote positive patient and staff experiences. Nurse leaders who communicate well and encourage their team members to do the same have fewer incidents of errors in patient care, which positively impacts patient outcomes.

4. Mentorship

What is it:

A mentor is a person with knowledge and experience who guides and nurtures the growth and development of a less experienced person. In nursing, mentorship is the act of an experienced nurse sharing time and knowledge with less experienced nurses to help them learn and achieve goals. Nurse leaders mentor nurses of all experience levels, preparing them for independent nursing and leadership roles.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Nurse leaders who mentor others by sharing their expertise elevate their credibility within their organizations. Mentorship demonstrates the leader's confidence in their abilities. It helps build trust between leaders and team members because their mentorship shows genuine interest in the success of others. A willingness to nurture and mentor others is a true sign of a strong nurse leader.

5. Strong Ethics

What is it:

Ethics are moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the way they conduct themselves while performing the activities with which they are involved. The American Nurses Association outlines the basic ethical principles which should be used as a baseline for nursing practice as benevolence, nonmaleficence, fidelity, accountability, veracity, and patient autonomy.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Strong ethics are one of the most vital traits of a good nurse leader. Those who work in nurse leadership must strive to model the behavior they wish to see in their teams. Ethical nurse leaders are known to show interest in the well-being of their teams. They provide support and listen to the concerns of those in their charge. When nursing leaders demonstrate strong ethics, they create a positive, safe work environment for themselves and their teams.

6. Professionalism

What is it:

Professionalism is the act of demonstrating high standards of practice, showing you care about your job, and being reliable. Professionalism in nursing involves maintaining values of respect, accountability, and integrity while providing high-quality patient care.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

When nurse leaders exhibit professionalism, team communication is improved, there is more accountability within the interdisciplinary team, and the work environment is more positive. Professionalism promotes better patient care which supports improved patient outcomes.

7. Respect for Others

What is it:

Respect for others means accepting them for who they are, even if you disagree with their values, beliefs, or habits. In nursing leadership, respect for others involves being polite, showing courtesy and kindness, and refusing to discriminate or show favoritism.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Nurse leaders set the tone for how other nurses and team members act and relate with one another. Nurse leaders who master the ability to demonstrate respect can effectively reduce workplace conflicts and stress. When there is increased respect in the workplace, beginning with the leader, colleagues usually have better communication and teamwork, which promotes knowledge, understanding, and productivity.

8. Dedication

What is it:

Dedication means being devoted to a purpose or task, demonstrating integrity and loyalty to a cause. Dedicated nurse leaders have a strong desire to promote high-quality patient care, see their teams succeed, and improve nurse-patient and interprofessional relationships.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Dedication is one of the leadership qualities in nursing that is vital for success. Nursing is a rewarding job, but it can also be quite stressful. Nurse leaders who are dedicated to their patients, teams, and organizations foster the same commitment in all team members, which benefits everyone.

9. Accountability

What is it:

Accountability is another of the many necessary leadership qualities in nursing. This leadership trait is not something someone can give or assign to you. Instead, it is the purposeful act of taking responsibility for one's actions and accepting the consequences, good or bad, of those actions.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Nurses who practice accountability help create trusting relationships with patients and coworkers and reduce fear. This nursing leadership quality is a must-have for anyone who wants to see their teams grow and succeed. Accountability helps establish a culture of support, trust, and dedication to excellent patient care. When nurse leaders understand the importance of demonstrating personal accountability and putting their understanding into action, it encourages the nurses on their teams to be accountable, as well.

10. Emotional Intelligence

What is it:

Emotional intelligence is perhaps one of the most essential attributes of a good nurse leader. Emotional intelligence is defined as one's ability to perceive, evaluate, and control the emotions of themselves and others.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Nurse leaders who have high emotional intelligence are skilled at using emotions to affect change among their team members and within their organizations. Emotional intelligence is a vital part of effective communication. Emotionally intelligent nurse leaders are more sensitive to their and others' psychological health and wellness and demonstrate a keen ability to handle and resolve conflicts.

11. Empathy

What is it:

Empathy is understanding others' feelings and viewpoints without judgment. It is the ability to demonstrate a connection with others by putting yourself in their shoes and acting on that connection and understanding to enhance patient care.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Empathy is one of the must-have characteristics of a nurse leader. This quality is integral in establishing nurse-patient and interprofessional relationships, encouraging positive attitudes and behaviors, and making ethical decisions. When nurse leaders demonstrate empathy, they connect more easily with their team members, patients, and patient families. Empathetic nurse leaders ensure the nurses on their teams feel respect, dignity, recognition, and appreciation, which creates a positive work environment and improves patient outcomes.

12. Service-Oriented

What is it:

Service-oriented is an approach to nursing leadership that involves a focus on recognizing, anticipating, and meeting peoples’ needs. It means being optimistic and eager to help when needed.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Service orientation is considered one of the primary competencies of social awareness in nursing. Service-oriented nurse leaders make themselves available to patients, nurses, and other members of the healthcare team. Nurse leaders acting with a service-oriented approach create an environment where patients and peers can draw upon the leader's ability to grasp various perspectives and create appropriate actions based on those perspectives. Service-oriented nurse leaders make their team members feel valued, reducing employee turnover and improving team morale.

13. Authenticity

What is it:

Authenticity is the act of being true to yourself, your personality, values, and life principle. An authentic nurse leader does not compromise based on others' opinions of him. Authentic nursing leaders value their teams, and because they do, they make sure to be genuine.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Authentic nurse leaders align their personal values to build respect, credibility, trust and hope within their teams. Because this type of leader is considered genuine, they positively impact patient and staff satisfaction, employee motivation, and performance. These are a few reasons why authenticity is one of the must-have nursing leadership qualities and traits.

14. Good Conflict Resolution Skills

What is it:

Conflict resolution is the ability to address problems or differences and find solutions that promote a work environment where work can be accomplished peacefully. Although avoiding conflict is always best, issues can arise in the workplace that require strong conflict resolution abilities. Conflict resolution is among the top qualities of a good nurse leader.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

A day in the life of a nurse can be stressful or chaotic. Even the most well-intentioned nurses may experience days where nerves are on edge and respond in less than favorable ways, resulting in conflict. When nurse leaders practice conflict resolution, they create and promote the maintenance of a healthy work environment. Nurses who work in peaceful, emotionally healthy work environments with reduced conflict and stress report higher job satisfaction rates. When nurses are happy with their jobs, their coworkers, patients, and other healthcare team members are happier and better adjusted. When conflicts are resolved promptly, delays in patient care are reduced, improving patient outcomes.

15. Motivational

What is it:

Being motivational means inspiring or endeavoring to inspire people to act in a certain way. Motivational nurse leaders are enthusiastic about caring for patients and seeing the nurses on their teams become successful.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

No matter how great your nursing team is, nursing can be stressful. Nurse leaders and nursing teams face clinical difficulties, understaffing, and shifts in employment rates, contributing to workplace stress or tension. Successful nurse leaders must develop methods to motivate their teams. When nurses have a motivational leader who promotes their success and well-being, they feel good about the jobs they do and desire to grow, which benefits the healthcare industry, local organizations, the interdisciplinary team, and patients.

16. Self-Awareness

What is it:

Self-awareness is one’s ability to focus on their thoughts, actions, and emotions and determine how they align with personal standards.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Nurse leaders who are self-aware can objectively evaluate their feelings, manage emotions, and align their behaviors with a unique set of values. Self-awareness makes it possible to understand how others perceive you, making developing strong interpersonal and professional relationships easier. When nurse leaders become self-aware, they can assess their effectiveness, personal and professional growth, and recognize when change is necessary or will be beneficial.

17. Embraces Diversity

What is it:

Embracing diversity means putting forth an intentional effort to learn about and appreciate the differences in people. For example, getting to know people who come from different socioeconomic groups, religions, ethnic groups, or cultures is a way to embrace diversity within your team and community.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

The nursing industry is filled with nurses from diverse backgrounds and ways of life. Professional nurse leaders must learn to respect the diversity found within their teams and the healthcare field. Embracing diversity means working well with employees of different cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, races, genders, and ages. Nurse leaders who embrace diversity help promote self-confidence in their team members. These strong leaders understand that embracing diversity is an excellent way to leverage the unique perspectives and abilities of their team members, allowing patients and staff to benefit from those differences.

18. Confidence

What is it:

Professional confidence is the assurance one feels about their ability to handle a specific job or role. In nursing leadership, you can demonstrate confidence by being self-assured when handling competition, workload, stress, and other complexities related to your role.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Confident nurse leaders approach their work with excitement, professionalism, and curiosity. The self-assurance that accompanies confidence leads to thoughtful leadership, stronger clinical practices, and nursing innovation, making it one of the most important qualities of a good nurse leader.

19. Active Listener

What is it:

Another one of the important, often underestimated leadership qualities in nursing is active listening. Active listening involves fully concentrating on what someone else is saying. This type of listening involves using all senses and making note of both verbal and nonverbal cues.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Listening is the most essential component of strong communication skills. Nurse leaders who take the time to actively listen to what their patients, staff, and peers say (or don't say) are better equipped to respond appropriately to needs and address changes or conflicts as needed.

20. Promotes Employee Development

What is it:

Employee development is the combined effort of employees and nurse leaders focused on helping employees improve knowledge and skills. It can include training on using new equipment, strategies to improve patient care, or promote leadership within the team or organization.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

There are several benefits of employee development. The most crucial benefit of employee development is it ensures your facility has the best nursing workforce available. Nurse leaders who promote employee development show their team members they are valued, which results in increased loyalty and better work performance. Well-trained nurses are equipped to provide top-notch patient care, which improves patient outcomes and reduces risks to patient safety.

21. Builds Relationships

What is it:

Relationship building is an essential trait of good nurse leaders. It is the ability of leaders to promote and nurture positive relationships with and among subordinates and peers. Relationship building involves identifying common goals and purposes, helping team members become and stay focused and creating a strong sense of community within the team.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Strong interpersonal and interprofessional relationships are beneficial to nursing teams as they help foster an atmosphere conducive to growth and development. Nurse leaders who promote building solid relationships within their nursing teams have better staff retention and experience improved patient satisfaction ratings.

22. Technologically Proficient

What is it:

Being technologically proficient means having the ability to use technology to communicate professionally and effectively, enhance thinking skills, and organize information.

Why is this a Must-Have Quality to be a Successful Nurse Leader:

Most medical centers now use state-of-the-art digital medical equipment and electronic health records. Nurse leaders must know how to use technology daily and be proficient enough in its use so they can train others.

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Leadership Qualities in Nursing

Successful nurse leaders understand the importance of growing strong teams and search for ways to improve nursing leadership qualities and behaviors. The following are the top five ways to strengthen your leadership qualities in nursing.

1. Identify and maintain your values and morals.

Nurses want to follow leaders they believe have a high level of authenticity, values, and integrity. Before you can demonstrate those characteristics, you must identify the things you value and the morals by which you want to live and practice. Be honest in your nursing and leadership practices. Follow through on promises and commitments. Always search for truth before making judgment calls or critical decisions.

2. Become a listener!

Excellent communication skills are crucial traits of a good nurse leader. Further, successful nurse leaders understand listening is vital to effective communication. Listen to what your team members say and show interest in their thoughts and opinions. Also, pay attention to the nonverbal cues. When your team believes you care about their thoughts and feelings, they will value your leadership.

3. Practice positivity.

Have you worked with a colleague or manager who was always grumpy? If so, you understand how one person's mood can affect everyone around them. Successful nurse leaders seek to find the good in every situation. Even if you need to address difficult topics, it is helpful to end the discussion on a positive note. When you demonstrate an attitude of optimism, your team will feel empowered to accomplish more and interprofessional relationships will become stronger.

4. Get involved with community and professional organizations.

Professional nursing organizations provide several opportunities for leadership development. The American Organization of Nursing Leadership is dedicated to nursing leadership. Nurse leaders should take advantage of opportunities to expand knowledge insight into issues affecting nursing, including ways to approach activism and advocacy. Additionally, becoming active and serving on community committees will add to your experiences in various leadership roles.

5. Never stop learning!

Good nurse leaders understand the importance of continuous learning. Healthcare changes daily. Nurse leaders must acknowledge changes in the industry and learn as much as possible to teach others by example. Attend workshops, conferences, and seminars. Ask questions, learn about different perspectives, and find creative ways to teach your team.

12 Bad Leadership Qualities Every Nurse Leader Should Stay Away From

It is crucial for nurse leaders to understand the difference between good and bad leadership qualities in nursing. In the same way, that good leadership qualities can help promote strong teams and better patient and professional outcomes, poor nursing leadership qualities and traits can adversely affect them. The following are ten leadership qualities every nurse leader should avoid.

1. Poor Communication:

It is impossible to lead successful teams without excellent communication skills. Nurse leaders must be able to effectively communicate with patients, families, and the healthcare team.

2. Lack of a Good Professional Track Record:

While it is not necessarily a terrible thing to have a previous work experience that did not end well, no one should make a habit of poor job performance. Employers know successful people promote success in others and understand that hiring successful people is less risky than hiring someone with a poor track record.

3. Acting Disrespectfully Toward Others:

The way leaders act toward others says a lot about their character. Poor nurse leaders tend to lack respect for others. They may act condescending or belittle team members, leading to a hostile work environment.

4. Downplaying Unethical Behaviors:

One of the worst things a nurse leader can do is overlook or rationalize poor behavior from themselves or others. Unethical conduct sets individuals and organizations up for failure. Do not let small gains fool you, either. Unethical behavior will eventually negatively impact everyone.

5. Lack of Integrity:

Demonstrating integrity means being honest and consistent with an uncompromising adherence to ethical values and practices. When nurse leaders lack integrity, they often lose the respect of others, which can significantly damage their likelihood of success. Therefore, nurse leaders must understand and exercise personal and professional integrity.

6. Avoiding Conflict:

It is safe to say most people prefer to avoid conflict. However, there are times when addressing problems or conflicts is necessary. Conflict avoidance can lead to bigger problems and negatively impact interprofessional and nurse-patient relationships. Therefore, nurse leaders must be aware when problems arise and act to resolve conflicts as quickly and efficiently as possible.

7. Blaming Others:

It is normal for nurse leaders to delegate responsibilities for various jobs to other people on their teams. Although leaders may establish guidelines and roles for the individuals on their teams, it is still the leader's responsibility to ensure work is done correctly and in a timely manner. Poor leaders often accept praise for jobs well done but quickly blame others when things are not going well.

8. Unwilling to Compromise or Be Flexible:

Things like high-quality patient care and healthcare ethics should never be compromised. When it comes to leadership, though, an authoritarian approach is typically not the best. Good nurse leaders know when adaptations to their management style are necessary while still upholding nursing ethics and providing safe, effective patient care.

9. Being Self-Centered:

One of the worst leadership qualities in nursing is having an attitude of being self-centered. Nurse leaders who promote others before themselves create an atmosphere conducive to teamwork and confidence. When leaders focus solely on themselves, they lose sight of what is important, such as excellent patient care and building successful teams. Their behavior can have far-reaching, negative consequences.

10. Being Satisfied with the Status Quo:

Status quo refers to the existing state of something, such as how a business is run or a team is led. Satisfaction with the status quo is an example of a poor leadership quality in nursing. Nurse leaders who are satisfied with the way things are lacking the drive to see their team and organization grow.

11. Unteachable:

It is difficult, if not impossible, to lead teams if you are not willing to be led yourself. Poor nurse leaders often believe that they know everything there is to know and may avoid opportunities to learn from others or engage in personal or professional growth.

12. Lack of Accountability:

One of the most professional traits a nurse leader can demonstrate is accountability. No matter what position a person is assigned, there is always someone who has a higher rank or position of authority. Poor nurse leaders have little regard for the way they should conduct themselves and often avoid conversations or activities that hold them accountable. Unfortunately, when nurse leaders lack accountability, their team members mimic this type of behavior, and eventually, a snowball effect of poor job performance occurs.

My Final Thoughts

Strong nurse leaders impact every aspect of nursing care. If you are a nurse leader or want a leadership position in the nursing industry, it is necessary to ask, "What are the leadership qualities in nursing every nurse leader must-have to be successful?” Throughout this article, we have discussed the importance of solid leadership, poor leadership qualities, and 22 leadership qualities in nursing every nurse leader must-have to be successful in 2024. The information about nursing leadership qualities featured in this article is a great resource to use to grow your leadership skills and abilities.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).