Which Key Skills Are Required For Nursing Leadership Roles?

by Anne B. Robinson

Healthcare is a crucial sector and an industry that works hard to keep us all fit. As well as helping people recover from injuries and get the treatment they need for serious conditions, this sector also provides the public with education on living a healthier lifestyle.

While there are many roles in healthcare that are rewarding and make a real difference in people’s lives, nursing is one of the most popular. This is easy to understand when you consider the chance for career progression in the field and the opportunity to work at more senior levels.

Effective skillset critical for nursing leadership

If you plan to work in more advanced roles within nursing, there are many factors that come into play. Teamwork, for example, is very important, and you must not only be good at it yourself but also be able to foster it in any team you manage. One of the best pieces of advice is to complete an academically robust course of study, as such courses help build these skills.

The online FNP at Walsh University is a popular choice and offers a convenient, flexible way to hone the traits leadership roles in nursing call for. In addition to gaining the skillset to excel in these roles, graduating from a course like this also means you have the right academic qualifications to move into advanced nursing jobs.

The key factor for advanced nurses is having the correct skillset to lead those they manage. It is important that these key skills for working as a nurse leader are developed to a high level because this will enable them to be truly effective in their role. Possessing the right skills also means nurse leaders can engage properly with those they lead and help inspire them to greater heights. Often travel nurse agencies look for such specific skills.

How can you build the right skills for working as a leader in nursing?

Before we go on to look at which exact skills are critical for nurse leadership roles, it is worth thinking more about how you can develop them. While you might have refined some of them to a high level, few people will have picked up all the skills required to be a nurse leader. This is especially true for people who might be moving into nursing leadership as a second career.

But what skills are most useful for nurse leaders?

People management

When you see an up to 28% projected job growth for medical and health service managers by 2031, it is clear how important leadership is across healthcare. This is certainly true for nursing leadership and explains why roles like this play a central part in the modern profession.

One very important skill for leadership positions in nursing is people management. As you will be dealing with a team of professionals, it is crucial that you are able to deal with them in a caring, sensitive, and compassionate way.

People management skills also help you tailor your management style to the person you are dealing with, which can often be key to achieving the desired outcome. Good people management skills will also see those you lead warm to you, feel inspired by you to perform well, and be more open to listening to what you have to say.

Decision making

A core part of being a leader within nursing is making decisions. These can often be tough decisions that some people might not like or decisions you need to make under pressure. It is, therefore, essential for nursing leaders to have the clarity of thought to assess what is happening and the strength of character to make a decision on what to do next.

Common decisions you might need to make in this type of role include setting policies for nursing teams, deciding where resources will be spent, signing off annual leave, or giving advice on how best to deal with a patient. Developing your decision-making skills is something you must focus on as a nursing leader to get the most from this role.


Another essential skill that comes in handy for nurse leadership is communication. This refers to both verbal communication and written communication. It is also worth remembering that written communication in the modern nursing sector includes letters, emails, and text messages. It can also involve using best practices for staff training on web conferencing tools and being able to use platforms like this to communicate with those you lead.

However you are communicating with your team, it is vital that you can deliver your message in a clear, concise, and appropriate way. This ensures that the person you are communicating with understands what you are passing on and feels you have done so in a professional manner. Being able to communicate effectively also means you to will be seen as a leader who keeps everyone in the loop and is easily understood.

Conflict resolution

Working as a leader in nursing comes with great job satisfaction and good rates of pay (the average chief nursing officer’s salary, for example, is around $139,000). Such roles, however, can sometimes involve having to deal with conflicts.

This kind of situation can be very dangerous to team morale if it is between nurses you lead. If the conflict is between yourself and the people you manage, this can also undermine your authority with the team over time.

For this reason, it is critical to possess outstanding conflict-resolution skills. By resolving conflicts to the satisfaction of all parties, nursing leaders can improve productivity, teamwork, workplace morale, and patient satisfaction.

They can also stop the conflict between nurses impacting the care patients receive. A good example of this is how nursing leaders can resolve conflicts around patient care plans when the team members involved have different ideas on how to approach them.

Adaptability to change

Nursing is an ever-evolving profession. This is only natural as it means the industry moves with society and gives people the care they need. It also ensures nursing remains relevant and does not get left behind.

One key skill that nurses in more advanced roles need, therefore, is the ability to adapt to change. This helps them face the uncertainty change can bring with equanimity and also sets a calm example for their team to follow. Being able to adapt to change also helps nursing leaders stay at the forefront of the sector and bring any changes that could benefit patients into their team.


It goes without saying that the top leadership roles in nursing are very busy and involve keeping on top of many things each day. To do this effectively, it is crucial to have excellent organizational skills and be able to plan out your working day efficiently.

If you can do this, you will be able to maximize your time and ensure you get through your to-do list each day. Good organizational skills also mean you never miss key meetings, never fail to report information by key deadlines, and work in a calm, effective manner. Being organized also sets a good example for the team under you to follow and helps them see you in a good light.


Integrity is an essential trait for any nurse or, indeed, anyone in healthcare. It is certainly a must for working as a leader in nursing and is something you must always show.

Personal integrity, for example, can be useful when making decisions about patient care plans or deciding how best to spend a nursing team’s budget. As with organizations, showing high levels of integrity as a nursing leader helps inspire staff to do the same and sets an example for them to follow. It also shows them you are an honest person who can be trusted and thus builds closer bonds with them.

Why are nursing leaders so key for the sector?

Building these skills is a great way to prepare to move into nurse leadership roles. There is no doubt that these healthcare professionals are key to the continued success of the industry – but why?

This comes down to the five key ways nurse leaders:

  • Help maintain and improve patient care standards
  • Ensure the latest guidelines/patient care initiatives are implemented
  • Help set the direction for nursing teams
  • Help build better nursing teams by fostering teamwork
  • Support for the staff they lead

There are clear advantages nursing leaders bring to the sector. Although all are important in their own ways, the maintenance and improvement of patient care level is perhaps the most valuable. By ensuring the nurses they lead offer the best care to patients, leaders in the profession are able to deliver the best outcomes for these patients.

Nurse leadership needs certain skills to thrive.

Whether it is the chief nursing officer, nurse leader, or nurse manager, there are some rewarding and impactful jobs in this profession to consider. All require the job holder to have the correct skills to lead effectively and engage fully with the people they manage. As such, it is key for nursing leaders to develop the skills we have looked at if they are to be successful in their roles.

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