Credibility has been called the foundation of nurse leadership for one very simple reason: People are most inspired by and willing to follow a leader who is credible in their eyes. It is when you inspire trust and respect in others; when your subordinates believe in your judgment and decision-making skills.

Yet there’s not a single action you can take to create credibility. It takes a combination of many behaviors and skills to establish it.

The Need for Credibility

It’s more important than ever for nurse managers to establish credibility. Why? Because healthcare is undergoing a period of rapid change. More responsibility is being shifted to staff nurses as medicine moves toward a multi-disciplinary approach. Healthcare delivery models are changing, in part to provide better care for a multitude of patients with chronic conditions.

In some cases, as with hospitals that are pursuing Magnet status, organization structures are changing. This in order to adopt systems like shared governance and decentralized decision-making.

Whenever change is in the air, credible nurse leaders will be needed to effectively manage that change. The last thing you need on your unit, or in your hospital as a whole, is a growing sense among your nurses that management is not competent enough to handle tough challenges. Or that managers are not telling the whole truth. Cynicism among your staff nurses is detrimental to morale, and there’s always the potential for workplace dissatisfaction to develop under leadership that lacks credibility.

Effective nurse leaders know that staff members are looking to them for guidance.

Although interpersonal skills are important, nurse leaders also must be up-to-date on policies, procedures, trends, data, and strategic initiatives. Credibility is easily lost when a staff nurse asks a manager a question that she can’t answer.

To increase your personal credibility, strive to adopt the following key behaviors:

  • Lead by example in order to inspire your team toward better performance. Identify your personal values and communicate them to subordinates through actions and words. Show loyalty to them; don’t condescend.
  • Develop your expertise. Stay up to date on industry trends and new developments in your workplace. Be able to articulate why changes are being made and what the benefits are expected to be.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking when it comes to solving problems or initiating changes. Don’t fall into the trap of doing things the same way simply because that’s how they’ve always been done.
  • Honor your commitments, and don’t make commitments that you won’t be able to keep.
  • Take responsibility for mistakes. Don’t play the “blame game” or try to shift culpability to those working under your leadership. Whenever possible, work to correct errors and prevent similar events from occurring.
  • Stay focused on current goals and express enthusiasm for them. When you get off track or seem disinterested in guiding others, you lose the ability to inspire your team.
  • Manage time wisely by setting priorities, delegating when appropriate, and eliminating activities that waste time. Delegating conveys confidence to your team and shows that you trust their skill sets.
  • Create a climate of trust. Remain transparent about department activities. Also, listen to others to demonstrate sensitivity to their needs. 

To learn more about effective leadership, take American Sentinel University’s online MSN degree, specializing on Management and Organizational Leadership. It is designed for the experienced nurse professional who seeks to develop both management and leadership skills. Through case studies and hands-on course work, nurses examine the various human resource challenges facing an organization. This is as well as the dynamic nature of the strategic planning and management processes.