TONE Monthly
February 2018

Developing and Mentoring "Up and Coming" Nurse Leaders

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It’s been said that leaders are born; but as we know, these skills can also be learned. Leaders do more than organize, direct, delegate, and have vision; they use interpersonal skills to help others achieve their highest potential. Leadership is about relationship building. A recurrent theme in the literature is that leadership involves influencing the attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and feelings of other people. This results in a feeling of being genuinely valued and respected—a basic way to achieve self- actualization and establish a trusting culture. Leadership is the foundation that brings an organization’s mission and vision to fruition. Emerging nurse leaders evolve with the influence of strong mentors as they advance in their leadership journey. Experienced nurse leaders who are known leaders in any practice setting should be encouraged to serve as mentors for other nurses. Simply stated, mentoring (or coaching) is a dynamic process of building supportive relationships to enhance professional growth and maximize individual potential. Mentorship is a means of sharing your knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors with another nurse. The mentoring process may be as simple as providing words of encouragement. What are the qualities of a mentor and what do mentors do?

  • Mentors have self-knowledge. They understand their roles within an organizational context and have the courage to identify ways to improve nursing practice. Mentors aren’t afraid to acknowledge their weaknesses. They also understand the importance of celebrating their own strengths and the strengths of their mentoree and other nursing colleagues.
  • Mentors have strategic vision. They have the ability to connect the essence of nursing practice—compassion and caring for people—to evidence-based approaches to continuously improve the quality of patient care. Having strategic vision involves being a risk-taker by “thinking outside of the box” and having an inter-professional methodology to achieving organizational goals. In short, mentors are successful change agents.
  • Mentors are effective communicators. They’re skilled in verbal and nonverbal communication skills, providing clear and articulate guidance and responding in ways that show respect. Calm and relaxed in countenance and body language, they’re good listeners who give the mentoree time to process before speaking and indicate that they understand what he or she is communicating. Additionally, mentors are not afraid to indicate that they’re wrong and offer an apology.
  • Mentors should be on the lookout for nurses in the practice setting who show characteristics associated with leadership.
  • Mentors should encourage mentorees to continue their formal and informal education by attending leadership conferences and earning an advanced degree or certification. Mentors must also continue to learn.
  • Mentors are supportive and encouraging. Effective mentors are patient, kind, and motivate the mentoree to problem solve. They’re approachable, available, and trustworthy. They may use humor and have fun in the journey with their mentoree, but they always demonstrate genuine compassion.
    Nurse leaders understand the value of service and should routinely engage in community-wide service activities and professional organizations that support the foundations of nursing. Professional socialization is important. The key is to be involved. It is important to remember that leadership entails a commitment to improving nursing care through research. Keeping up to date with research findings is important at all levels, from practical/vocational to doctoral-prepared RNs. There is a need for leadership at all levels of nursing practice. Although our roles may be different according to educational preparation and experience, we all have one common goal: to provide safe, quality patient care. Enjoy the ride!


American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Fact sheet: the impact of education on nursing practice. www.aacn.

Hodgson AK, Scanlan JM. A concept analysis of mentoring in nursing leadership. Paper Information.aspx? paper ID=36602.

Kouzes JM, Posner BZ. A Coach’s Guide to Developing Exemplary Leaders. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons; 2010.

Makaroff KS, Storch J, Pauly B, Newton L. Searching for ethical leadership in nursing. Nursing Ethics. 2014; 21 (6):642-658.


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