1. Gould, Kathleen Ahern PhD, RN

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If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. -John Quincy Adams


Leadership is often misunderstood or poorly defined. However, I find this quote by John Quincy Adams fitting; it describes what is often experienced in nursing.


Leadership is more than a label, a group designation, or a job description. Often, a leader is something you become. Becoming one does not happen all at once; it may be a slow and often unexpected process. The traits, talents, and opportunities that lead to this distinction are not always self-identified. Moreover, leadership is often something that others recognize.


Nursing is a unique profession that requires leadership at many levels and within many facets. The opportunities are unremitting-to teach, become a mentor, or simply inspire one person. Nurses precept, mentor, and act as role models everyday, experiencing continuous learning and growth.


Patricia Benner's1 description of becoming an expert nurse was inspired through other disciplines, but fits the trajectory of nursing perfectly. The novice moves quickly through the stages of competence and proficiency toward expert practice, sharing knowledge with students, peers, and patients during each phase. Gradually, each nurse becomes confident enough to share and inspire new ideas and lessons learned. This process requires teaching, coaching, and leadership.


Every day, we see new leaders emerge, with new views and visions. They will bring competence in technology, interdisciplinary communication, and evidence-based practice as they introduce new ways of knowing and learning.


As nurses continue to mentor and coach, know that you are inspiring and leading as you help new-to-practice nurses find their unique gifts and talents. This is especially important as we welcome many nurses who have chosen nursing as a second profession. New master's entry and accelerated programs offer opportunities for new-to-practice nurses to bring experience and wisdom from other professions.


It is exciting to know that some of these new practitioners were leaders in another discipline and will bring a unique set of skills with them. It is impressive to watch new staff interact with each other, share ideas, and champion the work they do as a team. Clearly, nursing is a teaching profession, requiring leadership skills everyday.



Kathleen Ahern Gould, PhD, RN




Dimensions of Critical


Care Nursing




1. Benner P. From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing Practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall; 2001. [Context Link]