1. Goodyear, Caryl PhD, RN, CCRN-K, NEA-BC, FAAN

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Q Right now everything seems so overwhelming. How can I be the best leader possible during these challenging times?

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The times we're in right now remind me of The Coffee Bean story.1 Essentially, all the stressors in our lives are like a pot of hot water. We can choose to be like a carrot in hot water, weakened by our environment, or we can choose to be like an egg in hot water and become hardened. And then there's the choice of being like the coffee bean, transforming the environment and overcoming the challenges and changes.


When challenges arise, it's hard to find meaning in our workplace and sometimes in our personal life. So many stressors are rearing their ugly heads during the pandemic. And we can feel like we are, indeed, in hot water.


First, we must care for ourselves. I know this message keeps coming up for us, and there's a reason that it does. We need to listen. Caring for ourselves is a foundational aspect of being as healthy as possible. We all require breaks from the action-physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Caring for ourselves means something different for each of us. One of my self-caring behaviors is walking because I don't just walk, I also use mindfulness to bring the joy of the walk front and center for me. The rest of the suggestions you know: eat well, exercise, sleep, meditate, be present. Find what works for you and start, even if it's with just one thing.


Secondly, let's put our trust in ourselves. You know better than anyone your ability to assess your needs and manage them in a way that promotes health for you and those around you. It's this self-leadership that's important. Self-leadership is the ability to assess, manage, and develop yourself to preserve and optimize relationships and add value to the outcomes of your organization.2 This is a competency that must be developed in all of us, not just nurse managers. The elements of self-leadership include trusting and having confidence in your own intentions and being self-reliant in directing your development. And, most important, you must assess and recognize the value you bring to the workplace. What are your special characteristics that make a difference to your staff? What are the unique skills you have in supporting your staff through this pandemic?


Being the best leader possible always means that we're in a growth mindset. What are the learning opportunities being brought to you? Take advantage of the opportunity to learn new skills and expand your thinking. Author Kendra Cherry suggests that there are six steps for success in our lives. Building a growth mindset is one of them.3 The others include improving your emotional intelligence; developing your mental toughness; strengthening your willpower; focusing on intrinsic motivations; and nurturing traits such as conscientiousness, accepting ambiguity, courage, and curiosity.


There's a lot we can focus on right now to be the best leader possible. My suggestion is to not overwhelm yourself because, honestly, caring for your self is a priority. Aspiring to be the best leader possible means striving for your best effort. Pick and choose what you want to bring forward in the unique leadership qualities you have or wish to improve. The ultimate goal is being like a coffee bean in hot water, transforming yourself to impact your environment in a positive way.




1. Gordon J, West D. The Coffee Bean: A Simple Lesson to Create Positive Change. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2019. [Context Link]


2. American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Framework for governance leadership positions. [Context Link]


3. Cherry K. 6 steps for success in life. Very Well Mind. 2020. [Context Link]