1. Miracle, Vickie A. RN, EdD CCRN, CCNS, CCRC

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Leadership. A good leader. We use these terms frequently but do we really know what they mean? What is leadership? Who is a great leader? What are the characteristics of a good leader? I could ask 100 people these questions and probably get 100 different responses. Leadership can be difficult to really explain in just a few words. Like many other things, I cannot always define it but I know when I see it.


Every nurse is a leader.1 All of us have characteristics of a leader and we assume the role in our everyday lives. You are a leader when you provide care to your patients. Your patients look to you for guidance and your expertise. Your family and friends look to you for these same features. I am sure you have family members and friends who contact you when they have a health-related matter to discuss or have a question. So you are a leader whether you realize it or not.


We need to work on becoming better leaders and foster this development in newer nurses. Nursing today has some wonderful leaders but we desperately need more. We need to build on our already present existing skills and promote the growth of leadership in others and ourselves. I have not always thought of myself as a leader. To be honest, there are still times I question my leadership ability. But then I remember that nurses are already leaders. We need skills and practice to hone our leadership ability. It takes time, effort, experience, and perhaps some innate ability, to be an effective leader. But I truly believe that all nurses can achieve this.


So what makes a good leader? There are many characteristics used to describe a good and effective leader. It is not the purpose of this brief article to review all of them. Instead, I would like to describe a few characteristics and qualities I believe make a good leader. I am sure you have others. The following are some of the characteristics of a good leader:1-4


1. visionary


2. lifelong learner


3. excellent communication skills


4. good interpersonal skills


5. able to look at the whole picture


6. good teacher


7. fosters growth in others by mentoring and providing opportunities


8. works as a model for effective change


9. accountable


10. excellent problem-solving skills


11. promotes collaboration


12. knowledgeable in their area of expertise


13. a strong conviction of their beliefs


14. goal-oriented


15. actively seeks opportunities for growth


16. open-minded


17. good time management skills


18. able to remain calm when everyone else is not


19. good listener


20. able to prioritize


21. willing to try new things


22. a role model


23. able to delegate



As you can see, there are many qualities and characteristics of a good and effective leader. I am sure you can think of other qualities not mentioned here. All of us have a different idea of what makes a good leader. The list presented here is not meant to be all inclusion; but rather, it is meant to make you think about leadership and discover your inner leadership skills. The road to becoming a leader requires effort, time, and practice. Think about your role as a leader now and then take steps to further develop that role and become the effective leader you are meant to be.


Vickie A. Miracle, RN, EdD CCRN, CCNS, CCRC


Editor, DCCN and Lecturer


Bellarmine University


School of Nursing


Louisville, KY




1. Miracle VA. Every nurse is a leader. Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2002;21(2):84. [Context Link]


2. Cain LB. Essential qualities of an effective clinical leader. Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2005;24(1):32-34. [Context Link]


3. Contino DS. Leadership competence: knowledge, skills, and aptitudes nurses needs to lead organizations effectively. Crit Care Nurse. 2004;24(3):52-64. [Context Link]


4. Giuliani R. Leadership. New York, NY: Hyperion; 2002. [Context Link]