1. Vos, Theresa C. MS, BSN, RN, CGRN

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Nurses today are being invited to sit at the table and have a voice in discussions centering on healthcare legislation and policy. Through the use of research, evidence-based practice, quality initiatives, and the voice of our patients, the profession of nursing has the distinct advantage to influence the future. We need vibrant and dedicated nurse leaders to be our voice. The question we must now answer is, "Are we each doing our part to nurture and develop our future nurse leaders to be that voice?"

Figure. Theresa C. V... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Theresa C. Vos, MS, BSN, RN, CGRN

I have often thought of the responsibilities of those of us who practice within the healthcare system of today and how our voice must ring out in support of our profession and the patients that it serves. How does one begin to articulate the responsibilities of leadership, which must exist within each of us who are privileged to provide care to others? It was because of this reflection that I chose to center my comments on the "leadership that lies within." I began my thought process by simply typing the word leadership in one of the online search engines. The importance of this topic became immediately apparent as I discovered over 150 million links pertaining to this very subject.


Researchers have long studied leadership in an attempt to define it by addressing specific personality traits, behaviors, and responses to both critical and noncritical situations. Although there are characteristic themes that seem to surface, such as courage, change agent, openness, visionary, inspires, motivational, relation building, honesty, integrity, and fostering leadership in others, there remains no concrete single definition that completely encompasses what a leader is. Arthur F. Carmazzi, founder of The Directive Communication Method, defined leadership as follows: "To lead is not to influence others to do something they are not committed to, but rather to nurture a culture that motivates and even excites individuals to do what is required for the benefit of all" (


Leadership is holistic!! It centers on a dedicated effort toward the greater good. To remain influential, decision makers in the provisions of care and nursing must invest in leadership development. Autonomy in decision making spans from student to novice to expert and becomes the foundation by which we build our nurse leaders. Developing the skills of our current and future leaders is one of our profession's greatest opportunities. We must remember that the future voice of our profession depends on the leaders we now nurture.


Leadership is a commitment to a life-long process of learning and self-development. It is interactive. It is the conversation that pulls people together. Leadership asks us, as nurses, to continually reinvent ourselves in seeking what is best for our profession and the patients that we serve. As nurses, we carry out the process of leadership in the provision of care by applying our own personal attributes, such as our beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge, and skills.


I would now like to ask you to think of the one person that comes to your mind when you think of a nurse leader. Now, think of how you first felt when you met that person. If you were like me, you wanted to become their shadow. You saw this person as the power source of learning for you, and you wanted to absorb all you could from them. Your expectation was that they would, through example, inspire, motivate, and engage you. They would bring value to what you do. This would be the person that "energizes" the nurse within. Little by little, however, this mentor began the process of stepping back. They led you on the path of self-discovery in which you realized that it was you who brought value to your own experiences, as you continually developed the leadership within. This mentor was a true leader. They helped you to realize that it is you who can bring value to what you do.


It is your own acts that inspire, motivate, and engage you. Leadership in nursing is guidance, and although it exists within the here and now, it truly sets its sights on the future direction and development of those that it serves. It is the responsibility of each of us reading this article to take seriously our role in the development of those that will lead our profession into its future. The time is now!! Leadership begins within you.