Nurse Leaders and Managers: Key Qualities, Roles and Duties

Nurses perform a multitude of roles in their workplaces. Some assist other nurses and healthcare professionals with basic patient care, while others help in surgery or emergency situations. Nurses can also take on leadership positions in their organization as they gain experience and training. Learn what nurse leaders and managers are, explore their roles, responsibilities and duties, review nurse leadership styles, understand the benefits of hiring a nurse leader or manager and examine how to hire a nurse leader or manager. 


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What are nurse leaders and managers?

Nurse leaders and managers handle a staff of other nurses, maintain organizational structure, provide patient care and develop improved nursing processes and procedures. These nursing professionals usually promote into these roles from traditional nursing jobs after developing certain skills and gaining sufficient experience. 

Related: Setting Development Goals for Leaders: Best Practices


Nurse leaders and managers roles, responsibilities and duties 

While both nurse leaders and nurse managers have similar backgrounds in nursing, their roles and responsibilities do differ:


Nurse leaders

Nurse leaders usually work with administrative teams dedicated to improving procedures and processes related to nursing. They don’t interact with patients as frequently as other nurses. Common job duties include: 

  • Setting standards
  • Evaluating processes
  • Overseeing the implementation of new procedures
  • Meeting with stakeholders
  • Aligning nursing practices with the organization’s mission and vision


Nurse managers

Nurse managers usually oversee a team of nurses and serve as their supervisor. These nurses continue to perform many of the responsibilities of traditional nursing along with managerial duties. Common job duties include: 

  • Setting team goals
  • Evaluating team members 
  • Managing budgets
  • Observing patients
  • Providing medical care to patients

Related: Facilitating Skills for Leaders: Five Concepts to Work On


Nurse leadership styles

Nurse leaders and managers can perform their jobs by implementing one of several nurse leadership styles: 


Autocratic leadership

The autocratic nurse leader or manager is the only decision maker on the team. They provide clear direction to their staff and rarely take suggestions from their staff. Often, autocratic leaders don’t approve of making any errors or mistakes on the job. 


Laissez-faire leadership

The laissez-faire nurse leader or manager trusts their staff to manage themselves. They oversee the goings-on of their team but rarely intervene or offer suggestions. Laissez-faire leaders usually leave decision making up to the staff rather than making choices themselves. 


Democratic leadership

The democratic nurse leader or manager seeks input from their team before making decisions or implementing new practices. Ultimately, the leader or manager makes the final choice, but they truly care about their staff’s recommendations and thoughts.


Transformational leadership

The transformational nurse leader or manager focuses on long-term, big picture organizational changes and improvements rather than smaller, short-term issues. They tend to stay out of day-to-day decision making and leave that up to their team instead. 


Servant leadership

The servant nurse leader or manager ensures their team reaches their goals by providing the necessary training and resources for each team member. Servant leaders focus on the well-being of the entire group by meeting every individual team member’s needs and wants. 

Related: 5 Charge Nurse Interview Questions and Answers


Benefits of hiring a nurse leader or manager

Nurse leaders and nurse managers can improve the efficiency and long-term success of your organization. Consider a few benefits of hiring these nursing professionals:

  • Teamwork: Nurse leaders and managers ensure that every member of the nursing team works together to create a cohesive unit rather than a loose group of disparate individuals. 
  • Education: Continuing education is vital in the nursing field as doctors prescribe new medications and treatments. Nurse leaders and managers ensure their staff have the necessary education to perform their jobs well. 
  • Innovation: Rather than rely on inefficient processes, nurse leaders and managers ensure the nursing staff continues to innovate and improve their protocols and procedures for better patient outcomes. 
  • Standards: Nurse leaders and managers hold their nursing staff to a high standard and ensure that every patient receives exemplary care. 

Related: How to Hire a Registered Nurse RN


How to hire a nurse leader or manager

If you’re looking to hire a nurse leader or nurse manager, follow these steps to help you find the best possible candidates:


1. Look internally

Begin your search for a nurse leader or manager by looking at your current nursing staff. You might have some excellent candidates already on your payroll who have the education, experience and skills necessary to move into a leadership position. 


2. Craft a job description

If you’d like to assess external candidates, begin by writing a thorough job description. Include important information like:

  • An overview of the position
  • Specific job duties and responsibilities
  • Necessary education and training
  • Years of experience
  • Necessary certifications or licenses
  • Work environment
  • Hours
  • Salary range
  • Benefits
  • How to apply to the position 

Some organizations choose not to include a salary range in the job posting. It’s an optional addition. Once you’ve written your job description, post it on your organization’s website and job posting websites like Indeed. Consider also attending job fairs for medical professionals or other industry events to share the job opening. 


3. Consider a staffing agency

Some organizations use a healthcare staffing agency to help them find qualified candidates. While these services usually require a fee, they do ensure the candidates they offer have all the necessary certifications, licenses and training necessary for the job. 


4. Hold interviews

Once you have a pool of qualified applicants, perform job interviews to learn more about your potential leaders and managers. Ask thoughtful questions during the interview that will help you determine whether the candidate’s nurse leadership style is the right fit for your organization. 


5. Make an offer

When you’ve selected a candidate, make them a job offer with a proposed salary and benefits package. Prepare to negotiate — your candidate might ask for a different compensation package after receiving your initial offer. 

Nurse leaders and managers can add enormous value to your organization. Understand the difference between the two positions, so you can select the best candidate for your company. Ask about their nurse leadership style during the job interview to ensure their practices align with your organization’s mission and vision. 

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