The word leadership is used frequently, but do we actually know what it means to be a leader? The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) believes there are many ways to display leadership. With this in mind, we asked some of our Emerging Nurse Leaders (ENL) to provide a short response on what leadership means to them. Whilst each ENL took a unique approach to answering the question, all responses illustrated leadership is displayed by all nurses, regardless of their managerial position. We have organised their responses to highlight three ways nurses display leadership every day in the workplace.

#1: Respecting the needs of the patient

Lavanya Naidoo, a Stage Four ENL, believes listening to the needs of the patient is an integral aspect of nurse leadership.

“I believe nurse leadership is about listening to the needs of the patient. For me, this means being able to support patients in their journey of life, giving them the chance to be heard and advocated for. My contribution to nursing is from the standpoint of proactive care and placing the patient in the driver’s seat, giving them a chance to ask questions and make decisions regarding their own health care needs.”

This leadership trait is demonstrated daily by nurses as they consistently deliver high-quality care and support to their patients. Taking the time to chat to your patient may seem like a small act but it is an example of being a leader.

Lavanya Naidoo

#2: Brave decision making

Melissa Haydock MACN (Undergraduate)

Melissa Haydock, a Stage One ENL, speaks about the importance of being brave in the nursing workplace. For her, nurses show leadership by being:

“Brave enough to speak up, to raise your hand, to ask for help and acknowledge weaknesses. Brave enough to see the injustices and not accept them. Brave enough to try and make a difference, no matter how small or large, to be humble. Finally, brave enough to see that leadership is about unity and reaching out to others to work towards amending injustices, restoring systems and taking those small steps that can ultimately create change.”

Nurses make brave choices each day to deliver excellent health care to patients despite dealing with the numerous challenges which arise during shifts.

#3: Providing support and encouragement to their peers

Providing emotional support to your fellow nursing colleagues is a vital element of nurse leadership for Stage Three ENL Tiffany Mckay.

“I am a firm believer in praising people to success. All people deserve positive affirmation and if mistakes have been made, the way we speak to people can make a massive difference in their self-worth and confidence. Everybody makes mistakes, it is how we guide people through these mistakes that matters in the hope they learn from it. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by positive staff where not a day goes by that we do not hear positive reinforcement towards each other. I have been fortunate to work many ANUM (Associate nurse unit manager) shifts and attempt to walk around and become involved with the staff, have a chat and let them know they are doing a fantastic job.”

Tiffany Mckay MACN

Tiffany’s response highlights even the smallest gestures of encouragement and support to others are examples of nurse leadership. If you have ever done this, you are a leader!

The three perspectives of leadership described above — listening to patient’s needs, making brave decisions and supporting your colleagues — demonstrate leadership is displayed by all nurses and not only those in managerial positions. We hope this piece makes you, our respected nurse reader, see your value as an incredible nurse leader in your workplace.

One way to help further develop your leadership potential is to apply for ACN’s Emerging Nurse Leader program. The program is open to all early career nurses from undergraduate nursing students to those in their sixth year of professional practice. Applications for the program close on June 12, so head to to avoid missing out!

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