Written by Kelly Papa, MSN, RN, in her book Effective Nurse Leadership: Transforming Long-Term Care
It is a challenge to commit to practicing in new ways, especially when your day is busy or when you have competing priorities. I used to feel like I was in a race that never ended, a race with a ticking clock that only I could hear. As I continued my journey through intentional leadership development, I was able to reframe how I viewed the events and encounters of my day; I learned a new way to allot the minutes and hours I had available to me. Michele Holleran shared that she learned “life was not a marathon; rather it was a series of sprints.” Not one long challenge, but several smaller ones, with starts and stops – moments to rev up, work hard, exhaust myself, and then recuperate. It was all in how I chose to view the world around me.
The symbolism of a series of sprints helped me to remember that not every sprint will be successful; some will be difficult, and some I will fail. It was important to prepare myself as I began each sprint. Similar to an athlete devoting herself to physical training, I would need to commit to learning; learning new skills, learning from my previous mistakes, and learning about myself as a leader. My unwavering commitments to myself and my quest to develop my leadership capacity include:
- Reading as much as possible
- Surrounding myself with people who inspire and teach me
- Being curious and asking questions
- Using the reflective practice of journaling to find my voice
- Practicing appreciative inquiry
- Seeking to define my “why”
- Practicing the five disciplines of a learning organization
To be an effective nurse leader, you need to be enthusiastic about your role and all of the possibilities that exist for the future of your organization. Be filled with curiosity and learning as you crystallize your purpose as a leader. Define your values and align your actions to match your values. Through relationships, inspire those you are entrusted to lead, connect them to the resources they need to be successful, and stay close to teach as transformation occurs. Our work is so very important – we are trusted by our residents, their families, and our staff to do our best each day to create a safe and happy home for our elders and their care partners.
I draw encouragement from Peter Senge’s words that an organization is always in the stage of “becoming a learning organization” – never really arriving, but always seeking a deeper capacity to live the five disciplines. This knowledge helps me to remain in a state of inquiry, keeping my curiosity alert for how we can constantly learn and enhance how we support the elders we are entrusted to care for. It also keeps me alert to the moments when I can put into practice the tools and frameworks I’ve gained from Senge and other leadership experts. I have found it to be extremely helpful to have knowledge of a breadth of leadership theories so that I can share them with others in the moments they need them.