The Difference Between Nurse Leadership vs. Management

We often use the terms leadership and management synonymously, and they are indeed very similar in meaning. However, they are two very different ideas when you look at the connotations and deeper meaning in the field of nursing. If you think about it, you can probably think of a manager you have or have had in the past that wasn’t a very good leader. Read on to learn more about the differences between leadership and management in nursing.

Nurse Manager

In any profession, it is a manager’s job to oversee other employees. It is generally a formal role that a trustworthy individual is given. A manager is sort of a middleman between the regular employees and upper management (like the CEO, owner, director, etc.). They need to be able to communicate well with both their superiors and their employees. They will most likely have a list of specific duties that must be attended to and assignments that must be completed. They are responsible for their employees and can be held accountable for any mistakes or issues.

A good nurse manager will have excellent communication skills, both in listening and speaking. They should be able to follow directions and enforce rules and regulations. They will be able to effectively coordinate financial and personnel resource and meet goals that have been set out by superiors. A good nurse manager will also properly praise their employees for a job well done and give tactful correction when improvement is needed.

Nurse Leader

A nurse leader, as opposed to a formal manager, is a nurse that exudes qualities that inspire others. There may not be any official authority, but others will follow and learn from the nurse leader. Like a manager, a leader will have excellent communication skills, but they will also possess great social or interpersonal competence that motivates others to follow them rather than obligates others. A good leader doesn’t have to push or force anyone to follow them. Rather, they will focus on inspiring and empowering others to do better for their own sake and not to reach a corporate goal.

How to Develop Leadership Skills

A nurse leader and nurse manager need not be mutually exclusive. Indeed, a good manager will possess the above leadership skills. If you find yourself in a role of authority, take the time to develop good leadership skills in order to see much more success with your employees. If you want to stay out of the limelight or not have extra official responsibilities, you should still work on becoming a successful leader. Here are a few tips for developing good leadership skills that will carry you far in your professional life, whether you want to become an official manager or not.

  • This is perhaps the most important skill you will needs to learn when it comes to leadership. Many might think that leadership is about giving orders, but as we saw above, listening is crucial to be a good leader or manager. Leadership means motivating others and inspiring them to become better. This is impossible if you are ignoring employee complaints or problems they might be having. But if you listen to coworkers, they will see you as someone they can rely on if they have a problem. After all, you cannot be a leader if no one is willing to follow you, and no one will follow if you show that you don’t care what they have to say.
  • Be Confident. If you seem unsure of yourself, others will be unsure of you, too. You need to exude confidence if you want to become a leader. Indeed, the goal of a leader is to make others better and lead coworkers or employees to success. If you have self-confidence, others will follow you wherever you go, because it shows that you know what you are doing. But you must also have confidence in others. Being a leader means being encouraging. If you want to truly motivate your nurses, you must actually believe they can accomplish the goals that have been set for them.
  • Be Positive. Your positivity is necessary to be a good leader. You must show others that even though there are difficult challenges or demands that need to be met, a positive attitude will take you further than complaints. If you are not in a managerial role, you can still comply with requests, deadlines, and assignments positively to show others that negativity is unnecessary at best and detrimental to progress at worst.
  • Professional Development. Leading others means guiding them to reach goals and have success in their work. You cannot be a good leader if you are behind in your field. Professional development is critical for showing others that you are a reliable leader. You should continue studying updates in the nursing field by reading professional journals and doing online research. You should also be aware of how local and national politics affect the nursing field and healthcare in general. By advancing your knowledge and understanding, you will have information to share with others and they will then see you as a reliable source and a trustworthy leader.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a good leader doesn’t mean you have to be in an official managerial role at your hospital or clinic. Indeed, many workplaces benefit from the self-driven employees that exhibit strong leadership skills regardless of their position or authority. By following the above steps, you will be able to quickly learn how to become a great nurse leader in your facility.

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