1. Section Editor(s): Raso, Rosanne DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, FAONL

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I just finished watching The Queen's Gambit and found myself mesmerized by the intense strategic thinking required in chess to be a winner. Maybe you saw it as well? Besides the fun 1960s retro vibe, there was important messaging around addiction, women's rights, and the formative years of children, with a compelling story on the rise of a fictional female chess champion from orphan to world-class superstar. The leadership lessons from playing chess and overcoming challenges didn't escape me.

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I've often read that one should "play chess, not checkers" when it comes to life. With no knowledge of chess, and only rudimentary luck at checkers my whole life, that made sense. Of course, you must be strategic to be successful. Then, on further reflection, I discovered another way of thinking: Play chess AND checkers.


Checkers may be linear, with only one type of piece that can only move in one way, but don't we need some fundamental basics in our personal and work lives, too? If every move of every day required strategy to get through it, we would all be exhausted. Daily routines can keep us sane and healthy, and standard work improves quality of care. On another line of checkers thinking, some would say treating all people the same isn't wise, but that also depends on perspective. Fairness, anti-bias, and other basics toward all are universal and, yes, of course we have to acknowledge that everyone is also different and flourishes with distinctive approaches and assignments. That's more chess than checkers.


So here comes chess with its diverse pieces that move differently and create millions of possibilities, all on the same board as checkers. It's more reflective of the complex relationships we have to build and manage in our careers, and of the multifaceted decisions we must make to further our personal and organizational vision, mission, and objectives.


In both chess and checkers, moving one piece affects future moves and possibilities, albeit one is more multilayered than the other. In both, we move forward and have multiple ways to do so. The mutual game objective to capture other pieces to win could be reframed positively as goal achievement by moving/relating with your pieces/stakeholders well, facilitating the best outcome of any situation with what you have. It doesn't happen without strategy, planning, execution, reevaluation, and even some sweat and tears. Sometimes it's as simple as checkers, and sometimes you need a chess master to help.


Is one leadership and the other management? You know the difference, and we do need both to succeed; albeit more leadership is required for sustained success. Or maybe the association can be made with transformational versus transactional styles. I suspect that transformational leadership will trump (checkmate?) transactional management any day when it comes to followership and engagement.


Playing chess and checkers is a fun way of looking at our leadership practice. I do hope you're still finding fun despite the many challenges we face. We're the kings, queens, knights, bishops, rooks, and pawns of the chess board, powerful yet subject to rules and moves that can take us up or down. You've all felt it. And we're also checkers, moving in prescribed patterns and helping our staff do the same.


Whether it's complex or fundamental, chess or checkers, nurse leaders do it all, don't we? We learn lessons from every game and keep moving forward for our patients, families, teams, and each other.



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