My Leadership Conversion (with angry nurses)

I’ve been thinking about what it takes to be a nurse leader.

I can honestly say that my best leadership advice came from a parenting book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.  A lot of the lessons were illustrated in cartoons.  And I got it!


It changed how I responded to our angry 11 year old daughter.

And now I see that it eventually changed how I responded to angry nurses.

It took many years for me to find my best self, my higher caring self in these situations.   My early leadership years were full of fear, uncertainty, and a strong need to be right, always.  I successfully avoided standing up in front of angry nurses for years so that I wouldn’t be found out.


I’m not sure when my conversion happened to my better self, but I do recall that it seemed sudden.

Suddenly I knew that when nurses spoke their truths, what they stated was usually right on the mark.

Suddenly I knew that how they felt was for me to hear and honor.

Suddenly I knew that it was important for nurses to hear that how they felt was  right.


Suddenly I knew that nurses always deserved to feel good about themselves.

Suddenly my responses needed to be from deep within me— what I valued, what I thought was right for patients, what my fears were, what I knew and what I did not know.

I suddenly knew that the quicker I dropped the ‘company line’ and turned to what they were experiencing and what I valued from within, the quicker we all would be our authentic selves.

I love nurses… I love the way we think, the way we see the world, and what we do in the world.


We are who/what we are because we experience people and life

in real moments.

I knew these connections were authentic because I felt whole, true to myself, and I felt the nurses walked away knowing that they had been heard and honored. These authentic moments counted.

Faber A, Mazlish E. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. New York: Avon Books; 1980.

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