AORN Blog - The Periop Life

Growing Into a Leadership Role: 5 Lessons Learned

A Guest Post from Sarah Hirx, MSN, RN, CNOR

Sarah Hirx, MSN, RN, CNOR

November 9, 2017     

Moving into an assistant manager position after only two-and-a-half years as a staff nurse was a growth opportunity for me in many ways. With growth came challenge and an opportunity to reflect on the ways I could improve to respond to the needs of my team.

Here are five important lessons I learned during this transition from staff to leader.

1. Think Globally

An important part of learning to lead is developing professional skills for the greater good of the unit and the broader hospital structure over time. This requires decision-making that is not always popular. Early in my new role as assistant manager there was a financial focus on tightening our staffing to match case volumes per day. This was different from the open self-scheduling approach we were all used to. Developing this new staff schedule was a challenge because I knew it would be a staff dissatisfier, but with my manager hat on I knew why we needed this change and why it was a better decision overall.

2. Find the Right Mentors

I’ve found it valuable to connect with leaders in my organization that were outside of my department. This gave me a chance to share ideas as I defined my leadership style, and it gave me a chance to talk out differences of opinion I sometimes had with the leaders I reported to.

3. Be Patient with Leadership Competency Development

The skills that made you stand out clinically aren’t the same skills that will make you a successful leader. You have to allow yourself time and grace to make mistakes and learn from them. Work with your mentor to identify the leadership competencies that will set you on a good development path. There is definitely an uncomfortable period as you learn to lead. Remember, it’s all part of the process.

4. Own Your Leadership Style, But Also Be Flexible

Every person has their own way they approach the world. An important part of leadership development is recognizing your style and recognizing when it will work and when it won’t. I like to get feedback and interact with my group, but there are times when this doesn’t work and I have to make an independent decision or flip to an alternate leadership style to achieve the desired outcome.

5. Take Time for Personal Growth

Professional development gives me time for myself to recharge my batteries and gain new ideas I can bring back to my team—something my team expects from me. I’m always looking for new opportunities to network with other nursing leaders, which I’ve found through my professional organizations.

If you want to test your skills as a leader, try taking an active role in your organization’s shared governance or volunteer to lead a process improvement project. Also, explore what opportunities are available for leadership within your local AORN chapter. See how it goes. See how you feel. These trial roles as a leader can help you build the foundational skills you will need in a formal leadership position.

Whether you’re new to leadership or looking to hone your skills, make plans to attend AORN’s Executive Leadership Summit, March 25-27 in New Orleans. Network with over 600 other nurse leaders during the three day event that takes place at Global Surgical Conference & Expo.