The Role of Love in Nursing and Nurse Leadership?


 What I’m learning about the role of love in nursing.

As a nurse, I have always understood needing to be kind, compassionate, empathetic, …

that’s the foundation of who we are and what we do.

And as a wife, mother, family member, friend, I know love.

But now I’m being challenged to know the role of love in nursing and in all aspects of my life.

I recently sat with some of my favorite nurses. These are nurses with whom I grew my nurse leader self over many years. And as I grew, I partnered and guided them in their nurse leadership growth. Dang, I LOVE these nurses.

They represent everything that is good about nurses. They are excellent clinicians. They have vibrant, curious minds. They have huge, loving hearts. And they have active mouths about the healthcare system, about their organizations and bosses and physicians, and about their nurses and patients.

In a conversation where I was pressing them for what they thought I should offer in my Saving Nurses writings and presentations, they gave me all kinds of shoulds….. based on their own experiences and mainly focused on emotional intelligence type topics.

Then I started talking about some of the dynamic nurse leaders that I had just learned from through my Caritas Couching program. And I mentioned this one inspiring seasoned nurse who leads with Love. As she says, “I just lead with Love, everything I do is Love, every conversation I have is Love with everyone – every nurse, physician, administrator, peer, patients …   It’s all about Love. My job and mission as a nurse leader is Love. And it works for me and it works for my nurses, their patients, my physicians and the bottom line. I have a waiting list for nurses who want to work with my nurses in my units and departments, and my nurses give good care.”

This immediately changed the tone and energy of the conversation with my favorite nurses. “I want that. I want to learn more about that kind of leadership”, my fellow nurses said with glee. Then they started sharing when they had experienced Love among nurses and from their bosses; and how and when they had felt Love in their own leadership practice. The collective conclusion was that they wanted more of that.

Since then, I have been researching other sources where Love is used in leadership.

I am now reading Love Leadership, by John Hope Bryant.   He comes from non-profit businesses and the finance world, and tells compelling stories about how Love works everywhere around the world.   He talks about how hard this transformation is and how necessary it is for life and all worthy endeavors, including businesses and finances.

Bryant believes that a life built on Love comes from:

  • loss and suffering initially
  • learning and knowing that Fear is the basis of traditional and many leadership practices, and must be replaced with Love for strength to emerge and thrive
  • one’s own vulnerability; and this yields power and growth
  • a deep desire to help others and ourselves
  • giving; and this brings getting

I am learning again that these are universal principles,  and as my favorite nurses said, “this is a good path for Nursing Leadership to take”.

Bryant JH. Love Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey Bass; 2009.
Featured image courtesy of cathal-mac-an-bheatha,


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