Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


How to get people dancing to your tune

  • Comment

You may not have planned to be a nursing leader but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a success

Most nurses joined the profession to nurse and care for patients. Over time, the requirement to develop and lead others has grown but leaders aren’t always up to the job. This could be an effect of the Peter Principle - when organisations such as the NHS tend to promote nursing staff quickly through the leadership hierarchy. After staff shortages or restructures you may be next in line.

So, if you are a new leader what should you do? Self-awareness is key. Understanding who you are and how you work will help you be more effective.

Five rules for leaders, working with a new team or needing a refresh

● Get to know your people - This is not just your immediate team but all those involved with your team - your stakeholders. You need to identify those who are key in supporting you, be they clinical staff or administration staff. This will be your coalition. The better you know somebody, the more affinity you have; the greater the affinity, the more gets done. Affinity is about common ground, it’s not about being their best friend
● Set out your standards and be clear on what you expect - Be crystal clear with your team about your standards. This includes behaviour, patient care, their development and how they communicate with a patient’s relatives. This is essential
to make sure people really do understand what you expect
● Know “how” - Know and communicate how you will achieve your goals. How will you behave with patients and other staff? How will you deliver the required results? It’s not about telling, this is about showing your people how and showing them what you expect
● Communicate the consequences -
Or… “what if you do and what if you don’t”. It’s really important that you tell your team what the journey will be like for them - along with the benefits - if they meet your standards and expectations. You also need to explain with conviction from the outset the effect on them if they do not meet standards and expectations. This doesn’t need to be “tough love” but good, honest support
● Lead and teach - The most successful leader nurses use teaching to keep their team at the sharp end, well informed and knowledgeable. If you develop yourself, you are more likely to develop others

The first step in a new role in leadership is to congratulate yourself. You have been chosen as you have the right qualities. It may have been unexpected but when opportunity knocks, open the door.

There are lots of debates asking: are leaders born or bred? The answer? Bred. Leadership can come more naturally to some but it is a learnt behaviour and becomes more natural over time, and with practice and clear rules.


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 new book by visiting

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.