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Are you in the leader zone?

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Leaders need to adopt different approaches but there should be no extremes of style

Nursing leaders often take time to develop their leadership style, and do this through some intense situations. When taking on any leadership role, nurses often have to leave old friends and build alliances with others.

Let’s take a look at four nursing leaders.

Jason was new to the ward and the hospital; it was his first team and he was keen to impress. A very structured and disciplined leader, he was all out to deliver. He spent little time getting to know his team and wasn’t empathetic to their needs. He delivered superb clinical results and care but his team were not behind him.

Margaret had been promoted into a senior nursing role. One of her old team was chatting to a member of her new team and couldn’t believe what she was hearing; it wasn’t the Margaret she recalled. She heard about an ogre of a leader, who favoured some and isolated others. She would get the work done but was perceived as unapproachable.

Character mix within the leader zone

I developed the “Leadership Zone” to demonstrate that it’s natural in any leadership role to be any one of these characters from time to time. To get optimum results and develop people, you need to have a slice of each and operate as near to the middle of the zone as possible (no extremes).

My experience led me to understand that leaders who stay in the Leadership Zone possess enough of each trait to be effective all-round leaders.


Marissa was the life and soul of the ward - she just oozed energy. Her staff thought she was a great boss. Her approach was being “one of the team”. Every payday, she would lead the evening out. Results were slipping, her work was under scrutiny, and she couldn’t work out where the problems started.

Kevin had seized the opportunity of taking a secondment, with a view to becoming a nursing leader in the not too distant future. He stepped into his boss’s role when she went on maternity leave. It’s been a challenging initiation as, until a few weeks ago, he was one of the team. He felt this was a strength. With his open-door policy, the team would constantly visit him with their concerns and issues. Eager to please, Kevin worked arduously to fix their problems. He was a big softy - after all, he understood their situation.

All of these leaders have different teams and activities. You may recognise some of them, but they are at the extremes of effective leadership.

Jason was so busy getting things done that he wasn’t making friends or understanding people. While Marissa was busy being everybody’s best buddy, she wasn’t getting the job done. Margaret felt that early in her new role she needed to be the tough, ogre-type boss, and she would become more unapproachable over time. What about Kevin? Being a big softy straddles empathy and sympathy. Empathy means you are part of their solution; sympathy means you are part of their problem. In the longer term, he will find it difficult to set standards, build affinity and deliver results.

Steve Rush is an author and leadership expert, and CEO of Improov Consulting. To review the essential ingredients in leadership, download a free copy of the Leadership Cake recipe pad or buy the book at

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