Newly qualified nurses

My first year as a registered nurse: reflecting on what makes an effective leader

In the second of a series of regular updates, RCNi nursing student of the year Zoe Butler discusses effective leadership, and why being a ‘quiet’ leader is no bad thing.

In the second of a series of regular updates, RCNi nursing student of the year Zoe Butler discusses effective leadership, and why being a ‘quiet’ leader is no bad thing


Picture: iStock

After settling into my role as a staff nurse, it soon dawned on me why leadership is currently such a big topic in the nursing world, and I have increasingly found myself thinking about how I am as a leader.

This is challenging so early on in my career, especially as I have never seen myself as a ‘natural’ leader. When you think of a typical leader, you may think of someone who is flamboyant and outspoken, whereas I am introverted, analytical, and measured in my responses and actions.

But does this make me a failing leader? Not in the slightest. I have always been a leader, willing to take on responsibility, hardship and difficulties, and being a ‘quiet’ leader is by no means a weakness.

An ability to connect

Effective leadership is not the sole responsibility of the nurse in charge of the shift or the ward manager. Delegation and ensuring tasks are completed are obviously important, but true leadership skills lie in the ability to connect with others, and strive towards shared goals.

For me, leadership is about collaboration, investing in others, and recognising the achievements of the team. Recognising others’ achievements is something I value, but this has at times left me unable to recognise or celebrate my own abilities.

My methods of collaboration and motivational role modelling mean I do not push myself to the front, and modesty about my goals can also be a barrier at times, whether I am being protective of my values or simply not wanting to appear unrealistic to others.

Importance of self-belief

This is the perfect time for me to reflect on my achievements and to look at the skills and qualities I have built up during my extracurricular activities and my time as a nursing student and graduate nurse.

Self-belief is the most important skill I have acquired. I have come to realise this is a fundamental requirement of leaders, as people follow others they admire. Although I am strongly task-focused, my strength lies in my ability to balance this with a truly holistic view of the people I collaborate with, and ensure they have my full attention and assistance.

Seeing people in an holistic way is the grounding for all of my achievements. By continuing to treat both colleagues and patients with compassion and empathy, and showing courage where necessary, I hope to fulfil my true leadership potential.


Guidelines for NursesZoe Butler is the winner of the Andrew Parker student nurse award at the 2017 RCNi Nurse Awards. After graduating from the University of Cumbria in September 2017, she now works as a staff nurse in orthopaedics.

The Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award is sponsored by Guidelines for Nurses.

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