different leadership styles in nursing

What Are The Different Leadership Styles In The Nursing World?

Some people perceive working in nursing to be a non-leadership role. Seen mainly as service providers and caretakers of the healthcare sector, many people wrongly assume that nurses are never called upon to show leadership or take the helm in tricky situations.

In reality, with the current set up of healthcare systems around the world, nursing is in fact highly leadership oriented. Not only do individual nurses have to show initiative and leadership skills in their day-to-day practice, but wards and hospitals as a whole are also often organized hierarchically – and nurses need to play their part in leading. This blog post will explain what different styles of leadership have emerged in the nursing world in recent years.

Care and attention

It’s fairly expected that anyone in the nursing profession, no matter what their hierarchical level might be, has caring skills: it’s an essential part of the role to ensure that people you come across are looked after and treated with dignity and respect. Therefore, it follows that a nursing leader should also possess this skill.

But the interesting question for many people is how care and attention can be applied to leadership in practice. Say you’re a senior nurse and you’re managing budgets within an organization like a hospital ward: by paying attention to what your nursing staff are saying, you can raise the chances of higher staff morale.

This shouldn’t, however, be conflated with “giving in.” As any nurse who has worked in a challenging discipline such as mental health will know, paying care and attention does not necessarily mean that you agree with the patient or give them what they ask for. But paying attention to what people say to you in the first place means that you can increase the chances of getting those who will be impacted on your side, even if they initially disagree with your decision.

Big picture

As a nursing leader, it’s also essential to take a “big picture” approach where and when you can. Increasingly, nursing is an atomized profession. Reductions in staff levels in healthcare systems both here and around the world, for example, have meant that some nurses find themselves often working alone, while funding cuts have also had an impact.

As a well-qualified nursing leader, you’ll need to make sure that you can see the profession – and all of the challenges associated with it – holistically. The nursing leadership courses at Baylor University prepare students for all of the industry’s challenges, and how to tackle them.

For example, it’s important to avoid neglecting crucial parts of the ecosystem in your hospital or ward, such as the funding source, because you’re focused too much on another part of the job, like patient care. Instead, you need to use your leadership know-how to bring these seemingly disparate parts of the process together to make decisions that fit with and address each piece of the healthcare system.


Some people inside and outside the nursing profession assume that nursing staff are short-term in nature. There’s also a false perception that many nurses are simply there to do tasks that don’t have a broader focus, such as giving out medicine, changing dressings, and assisting doctors. In reality, nurses are highly trained professionals who oversee almost all aspects of patient care and deal with both the day-to-day procedures and life-changing treatments. It’s one of the most round-the-clock professions you’ll find.

As a nursing leader, it’s especially important to ensure that you ground yourself in a long-term mode of thinking. If you get too hung up on small tasks, you’re likely to find yourself unable to plan for your team, ward, or hospital in the longer run. Say you become too fixated on the exact way a dressing was applied to a patient’s wound.

Provided the issues involved were only minor and didn’t put a patient at risk, it may be worth avoiding an overt focus on the individual case and instead using your limited time and resources toward thinking about how healthcare standards on that front can be improved across the board. That way, you’re avoiding short-term thinking and instead focusing on the wider, long-term approach to better patient outcomes.

Day-to-day operations

Finally, it’s worth noting that taking on any or all of the above leadership styles is not necessarily dependent on your position in the structure of the nursing organization, ward, or hospital. On the contrary, it’s often the case that leadership is shown in some of the most mundane day-to-day tasks on the floor of the ward, clinic, or healthcare setting.

For example, many nurses are required to manage medication for patients. This is an onerous responsibility: it’s necessary for nurses to show responsibility, organization, and determination when measuring, checking, and rechecking the medication levels to be given to patients.

The difference, of course, is that nurses who are working at this level are showing leadership in a way that has a profound impact – but only on one person. Those who are in higher positions of leadership are often working in ways in which the impact is diffused across multiple people, which is perhaps one reason why they are in some ways rewarded more. But regardless of the level of leadership in play, the leadership skills involved are often the same.

So, it’s clear that developing a leadership style is a necessary part of being a nurse – and that this applies whether you’re working as a nurse on a ward or other care setting or as a senior nursing leader in a hospital. Whether you’re managing nursing budgets or administering medication, it’s essential to show leadership and willingness to manage multiple tasks – no matter what your style is.

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