Top 12 Leadership Skills Nurse Practitioners Need To Be Successful Leaders

Written By: Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN

Often, a nurse practitioner is placed in a position of authority due to having an advanced practice degree as an NP. In addition, the hierarchy of staffing in medical facilities inherently place NPs near the top of the team, right below the physicians. However, an NP may not be experienced or comfortable in a leadership role.

If you are having doubts about taking on a leadership role and wonder if you are the right fit to be an authority at work, there are tools online to assess your nurse leadership skills. Another great place to start to find answers would be to ask yourself what leadership skills do nurse practitioners need to be successful leaders? Although there is no one size fits all solution to excellent leadership traits, there are some basic skills necessary to succeed when you are the one at the top. Read on to find out the top 12 nurse practitioner leadership skills that will make you shine as a nurse leader.

What Leadership Skills Do Nurse Practitioners Need to Be Successful Leaders?

(Following are the top 12 leadership skills nurse practitioners need to be successful leaders.)

1. A Team Player

Not to be confused with being a part of the gossip mill, a team player supports others and functions well with people in the group. A team player communicates effectively with the staff and works towards a common goal within the organization. Most of all, a successful nurse practitioner leader realizes that the patient is the center of the team and is empathetic to their needs always.

A group-oriented authority figure is willing to pitch in but is also able to delegate work to others readily. A nurse practitioner is a key player in the team and naturally will need to assign nurses, techs, CRNAs and MAs duties to complete. Tasking others while maintaining a pleasant demeanor will benefit the team-oriented framework and make for a more pleasant environment.

2. Possess the Ability to Make Decisions

Critical thinking, especially in times of emergency, is essential for a nurse practitioner leader. Your team will depend on you to accurately and clearly execute the management of all situations and will take your lead based on how you conduct yourself.

Also, an NP leader may be in a management position and will need to make decisions that will affect the entire staff. Being able to see the big picture clearly and not being afraid to outline and carry out what needs to be accomplished is one of the practical nurse practitioner leadership skills required to run an office or department successfully.

3. Applies Best Practice in All Situations

Modeling integrity and applying best practice standards embodies an excellent NP leader. As an authority figure, how you behave is looked at more closely and held to a higher standard than other staff members. Upholding the national standards of care for patients and adhering to the organizational guidelines will go a long way in representing how you would hope the team would also follow these ideals.

4. Has Passion for the Profession

An enthusiastic and committed nurse practitioner will be a positive and enlightening influence for the patients and medical team. This leadership skill comes naturally from within but can be consciously applied for a nurse leader dedicated to excellence. Exhibiting joy and passion while teaching, seeing patients, and leading others is contagious. Therefore, possessing dedication for nursing is one of the top nurse practitioner leadership skills that will make the team feel like their job is the most important one in the world!

5. A Trailblazer

An innovative NP leader is willing to listen to others, apply new techniques to keep up with the latest ideas, and think outside of the box. When faced with a dilemma, a nurse practitioner leader who can employ many levels of critical thinking is more likely to succeed in problem-solving than doing things the same way over and over.

Honing your innovation skills will help you and the staff keep up with the complex and changing healthcare system. As one of the top nurse practitioner leadership skills, this ability will be most effective as times change and unique problems arise.

6. Possess Empathy

Empathy is our capacity to “put ourselves in another’s shoes.” Your staff and patients will benefit from a nurse practitioner leader who possesses compassion. A team leader who displays empathy is perceived by others to uphold their needs and therefore creates a more desirable work environment. Your staff will be more willing to come to you with problems and therefore less likely to harbor resentment thus, promoting employee retention.

7. A Good Listener

Active listening ability is one of the essential nurse practitioner leadership skills to develop. This skill is at the core of patient-centered care and successful nurse leaders. Both your patients and staff will benefit from you attentively listening to their needs to build trust and understand their viewpoint.

8. Ability to Create a Learning Environment for Employees

One of the great reasons to become a nurse practitioner is the opportunity to teach others while on the job. It is enormously rewarding for the NP to empower other medical personnel to grow through job mentoring. Your colleagues will appreciate the skilled NP leader who is on the lookout for learning moments and provides the staff with the opportunity to capitalize on them.

9. Supports Staff

A skilled nurse practitioner leader is ready to “go to the mats” for the staff. Taking care of your team is most likely to be one of the top nurse practitioner leadership skills most appreciated by those you work with daily. Knowing that the NP leader values and supports the staff is critical for employee satisfaction.

10. Takes Care of Self

It is essential to take care of yourself to avoid apathy and burnout in the field. Recognizing that burn-out in the nursing profession is prevalent is the first step to avoid this trap. Taking the time to appreciate and apply self-care techniques is most important to keep on top of your well-being.

Maintaining your total health to prevent emotional and physical exhaustion may not be a more commonly acknowledged leadership skill. Still, it certainly is one of the more critical nurse practitioner leadership skills if you want to avoid wearing yourself out and care competently for your staff.

11. Good Time Manager

A nurse practitioner who possesses good time management skills will be more adept at staying on task and will accomplish departmental goals, leading to more effective leadership. Being resourceful with your days at work will lend itself to having more space to be fully attentive during meetings, problem-solve, and be proactive for the staff. In addition, applying time management strategies will increase the quality and quantity of work and job satisfaction for you and those around you.

12. Excellent Organizational Skills

Most likely, we have all had a manager in the past who just was not effective at organizing the team or personal tasks. This lack of attention to detail tends to spill over onto the staff and work environment. Recognizing what is important and prioritizing your work will help keep you on track and your frustrations low. Those at work will appreciate a nurse practitioner leader who is skilled at juggling many projects and duties successfully.


I hope this article sheds some light on the question of what leadership skills do nurse practitioners need to be successful leaders? Many nurses naturally possess some of the top 12 nurse practitioner leadership skills listed. Other attributes may take a little work. However, by taking a self-assessment of your strengths and weakness and implementing each point listed in this article, you can be a successful nurse practitioner leader.

Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN
Donna Reese is a freelance nurse health content writer with 37 years nursing experience. She has worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner in her local community clinic and as an RN in home health, rehabilitation, hospital, and school nursing.