As the Director of Operations for my company, I have had the opportunity to encounter many different leadership styles among the various departments within the skilled nursing world. I’ve worked with those who have an unbelievable amount of knowledge but not a whole lot of common sense. I’ve worked with those who have lots of common sense but lack in the knowledge area. All share a basic goal; they want to be a good leader.
Successful leaders are the ones that can combine knowledge, experience, and common sense and make them work positively towards the outcomes we desire as nurse leaders; happy residents, a compliant facility, and sound financial footing.
However, through all my years in the industry, I’ve found that one trait is common among the most successful leaders: the ability to inspire. Think about how many leaders you’ve worked alongside or under since you began your career. Of those leaders, how many of them were truly inspirational in such a way you wanted to make them proud, that you felt like you truly could make a difference in the lives of others (co-workers or residents alike)?
If you look up the definition of “inspirational” online, you’ll find a few variations. My favorite is on Biography Online: "To offer something valuable or uplifting which motivates others to bring out the best in themselves. To be inspirational is to lead by example and encourage others to feel there is something worthwhile to become and do."
If I approached five staff members who you lead and asked them to describe your leadership style in one word, how many of them would use the word inspirational? What if I asked them the same question, but with the definition as the leading question; Does INSERT NAME motivate you by leading through example and encouragement? Or, lastly, does INSERT NAME make you feel there is something worthwhile to become and do?
Can those you lead see your passion for the work you do? Do those you lead understand that you will roll your sleeves up and help out where necessary and that they’ve actually seen you do this? Do you believe that your staff see you as someone they can trust, someone they can come to with questions, someone to show them the way when they are feeling insecure in their role or skills?
Inspirational leadership is something I strive towards every day. I have the opportunity of bringing this inspirational leadership goal to our facility leaders, including the nursing departments, with the primary goal that they will absorb this idea of inspirational leadership and let it trickle down to those they lead. It’s true that, as leaders, we don’t always fire on all cylinders, but another sign of a successful inspirational leader is recognizing when you fall short, circling back to those who were on the receiving end, and acknowledging your failure. This lets them know you’re human and will try to do better. I can’t think of a more humbling trait in a leader than their ability to acknowledge, at face value, their own shortcomings on any particular issue or event.
So, I encourage you to survey your staff and take a pulse on how you are received as a leader. There are many free survey tools online that will allow you to send a certain number of questions at no cost. I’ve found that anonymous, unfiltered and unvarnished feedback from those you lead to be one of the most valuable tools to becoming a better leader. If inspirational isn’t a trait they come back with to define you, then take the feedback, try throwing in a little inspiration here and there, and try again in a few months. You’ll see the difference!
I leave you with this quote from John C. Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Is this who you are as a leader? If not, what are you going to do to get there? It’s not too late to start now!
Cody Campbell has worked his way up the career ladder over the last 16 years, starting as a CNA in high school through the local HOSA chapter and still keeps his CNA certification active so he can assist where needed. He has worked as a Certified Medication Aide, Director of Admissions, Director of Marketing, Training Coordinator, Assistant Administrator and Licensed Nursing Facility Administrator (LNFA). He is now the Director of Operations for FourCooks Senior Care, LLC and provides leadership training, policy and compliance oversight/direction and vision for 11 nursing facilities all over Texas.