‘A Leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.’~John Maxwell.
One of the last classes before nursing students graduate is a class on leadership. It includes a great deal of practical hours in the clinical setting, usually with an experienced nurse who is working in a leadership position. This is an eye-opening experience for the student, who has previously had an instructor hovering nearby, supervising and monitoring. The real world is a lot more scary, especially if the clinical setting is a busy one. Decisions are made in a split second; priorities change constantly; clinical judgment and critical thinking are called for without much time for contemplation. It is a great learning experience.
The other day I was offered a topic for my message. It was: ‘Don’t ask other people to do things you wouldn’t want to do yourself’ and when I read it I remembered one of the reasons why I left nursing supervision. The staffing situation had changed to the point that I was asking nurses to carry a patient load that I would not have been able to manage myself. Since I was not able to change that situation, I changed my position, and it was not long before I left that hospital altogether. The philosophy of the leaders in an institution has a huge impact on the frontline workers, both by determining their work environment and their work ethic. If you feel that your work is not valued, you are less motivated to deliver your best, to go the extra mile.
We also have to teach nursing students about delegation. And this is not just about making sure you are not trying to do all the heavy lifting by yourself, it is about knowing the legality of having someone else complete a task that falls under your domain. Nurses have to know what task can be delegated, under what set of circumstances, and to whom. When I first started working as a nurse, I had a really hard time delegating. It seemed easier to do every job myself, rather than ask a nursing assistant to do it. One of the problems was my age. At the time I was very young, and they were mostly middle-aged. But I had to realize that by not passing off some of the less technical tasks to another person (give a patient a bedpan), I was not able to do the things that only I could do (hang an IV solution), and no-one was paying me to stay behind an hour or two every day to finish up my work!
When leaders are new to their role, they can either go one of two ways. They can turn into mini-tyrants, drunk with new power, or they can try to do everything themselves, unaccustomed to having others at their disposal. But part of the art of leadership is seeing potential in others, and developing it. Nursing had a history and a tradition behind it for many years. You were supposed to work your way up through the ranks, gaining experience and intuition as you went. Only after years of working on a ‘regular’ floor should you consider asking for a transfer to a more intense floor like the ICU. You would not be considered for a job as a nurse manager unless you had at least a decade of experience behind you. But things change, and some new nurses are heading straight for the ICU (with special training of course). And there are those who, with or without additional education have the spark, the intelligence, the quick reaction and the good judgment to move quickly from the bedside to a management position. I remember being shocked to recognize it in a young, newly graduated nurse. I encouraged her to apply for a charge nurse position, and years later she is Director of a Medical-Surgical department of a local hospital.
There are leaders who inspire us to be more than we thought we could be, leaders who see something in us we may not be aware that we have. So many of us need to be pushed, need to be shown what we are capable of. Of course there are others who are immensely aware of their talents, and perhaps in some fields it is necessary to be outwardly confident and assured. Athletes and politicians seem to be very good at that!
But great leaders hold on to a spark of humility, and lead by example. Those are the ones that we admire, the ones who don’t need to brag of their abilities, or remind us of all they are capable of. Nelson Mandela comes to mind, as that greatest of leaders who remained humble to the end.
This Friday morning, I hope you work with leaders who inspire not demean, who value your worth rather than micromanage your time. And if you are in a position of leadership, think about those who look to you for motivation and encouragement. Are you asking them to do things you are not prepared to do yourself? One of the great principals at Clarendon College used to say: “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say!” (C. L. Stuart). You never know who is watching! And with social media around, it may live on forever!
Have a wonderful weekend Family! And thanks once again to all of those who helped to make last weekend so special. We have not completed our accounting yet, but thanks to the support we will be able to provide scholarships to a good number of students this year.