Essential Qualities Every Nurse Leader Needs

If you have a caring personality and want to help others, a career in nursing may be the right route for you to go down. While treating patients may be enough for some nurses, others prefer to take charge and lead a team towards delivering excellent care for their patients. If you are interested in becoming a nurse leader, it’s crucial that you have the right characteristics and traits behind you. To help get you started, here are some of the essential qualities that every nurse leader needs.

Emotional Intelligence

One of the key attributes that nurse leaders need to possess is emotional intelligence. In clinical environments, nurse leaders work closely alongside trainees to help them develop their emotional intelligence. One of the main roles of a nurse leader is to assist nurses in managing challenges, as well as counterproductive influences that can cause emotional exhaustion, not to mention poor team collaboration, therefore, having emotional intelligence is crucial as a nurse leader.

Critical Thinking

There are all sorts of challenges and obstacles that nurses face on a day to day basis. As a nurse leader, it’s likely that you will be in charge of making decisions and having the final say, so it’s important that you have critical thinking skills. There may not be much time to decide on an answer, so you need to be confident in your final say and stand by your actions, regardless of the outcome.

Communication Skills

No matter who you come into contact with in nursing, it’s important that you have excellent communication skills. Whether it’s leading your team, engaging with patients, or other healthcare professionals, knowing how to engage with others is a must when it comes to succeeding as a nurse leader. Some of the benefits of communication skills include:

  • Building trust
  • Providing clarity and direction
  • Increasing engagement
  • Improving productivity
  • Promotes team building

Listening Skills

When guiding a team in nursing, you need to listen to their thoughts and opinions. No matter the task that has been set, as a nurse leader, you will be held accountable for the overall outcome, so if a member of the team is struggling, or feels afraid to speak up, it’s up to you to be on hand to listen to their worries and concerns. Effective listening helps to:

  • Resolve conflicts
  • Build trust
  • Inspire your team
  • Strengthen your team

Dedication to Excellence

No matter what you do in your nursing career, it’s important that you put your full attention and effort into it. Striving for perfection and being dedicated to your role is critical, so in order to have employers and health professionals take you seriously, you need to show that you’re motivated and committed to your role from the get-go. To lead a team successfully, you need to be passionate about your role, otherwise, you may lose momentum and slide off track.


Nurse leaders need to always be on the lookout for any problems within their teams. If you have noticed a change in how your team operates, holding regular group and one on one meetings can be a great way to nip problems in the bud before they turn into serious problems. As a nurse leader, you will be responsible for mentoring your team, so being friendly, approachable, and honest are further key traits that you must possess. Also, you should not be afraid to deliver constructive criticism. In the nursing sector, there are many life or death situations, meaning there is no room for mistakes, so being frank about a situation is key.


When dealing with patients and your team, you need to remain professional from the moment you walk through the door. With patients, in particular, being in control and assertive can help them feel more at ease. How you act throughout your career can go a long way, especially when it comes to your employers taking you seriously.

Time Management Skills

No matter what sector of nursing you’re in, the workload can be highly stressful, therefore, it’s important that you possess good time management skills. No matter what kind of patient walks through the door, they expect to be provided with an excellent level and service and be treated quickly and efficiently. Nurse leaders need to know how to multitask and be aware of time constraints in order to perform their duties correctly.


As a nurse leader, you will meet colleagues and patients from all walks of life. Each person you come into contact with will have a different situation, so you will need to have a level of empathy and understanding for your patients. There are various powerful benefits that come with being compassionate too, such as:

  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Normalizing blood pressure
  • Lowering stress and anxiety
  • Helping you to understand others

Finding Your Degree

Now that you have a better idea of the key qualities that nurse leaders must have, it’s important that you find a degree that will equip you with the skillset listed. For example, Baylor University offers a DNP executive leadership program that can help you on your journey towards becoming a nurse leader. Throughout your course, you will undertake a range of core modules that will set you up for success and help improve your job prospects once you have finished.

You also have the option to study for your DNP executive leadership program online, which can provide flexibility, freedom, and enable you to study at your own pace. Other benefits that come with studying online include:

  • Better opportunities to concentrate
  • Customize your learning environment
  • A large variety of courses to pick from
  • Enjoy a flexible schedule
  • Boost your career opportunities

If you are serious about becoming a nurse leader, make sure to read through course specifications, entry requirements, as well as total course fees so you can get a better idea of what to expect and to help you feel more confident when making your final decision.

You must possess all the key skills listed above to excel as a nurse leader. No matter what sector of nursing you go into, knowing how to effectively communicate with your peers and patients, as well as having compassion for those you treat can help you go far in the nursing world.