What Skills Do You Need to Excel as a Leader in Healthcare?

By  //  April 11, 2023

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The road to becoming a leader in healthcare is long but rewarding. Getting into this industry means you should already want to care for others – and that you love a challenge!

However, before you become a leader, you will need to work your way through a wide variety of nursing training and on-the-job experience.

That said, if you are set on leading a team of nurses or other professionals in the long term, knowing which skills are likely to help you on the job really does pay. Here are a few skills and attributes proven to help nurse leaders and other healthcare supervisors excel in surgeries, hospital settings, and more.

Communication skills

Are you a great communicator? By that, we mean can you actively listen as well as provide answers and give orders to others? The very best leaders, supervisors, and managers – especially in healthcare settings – are willing and able to listen to their team members and appreciate their input.

Healthcare leaders should always spend more time listening than speaking. In a complex, fast-paced environment, it stands to reason that you will have a lot of information flying around. Given that much of this information will relate to people’s health and well-being, it goes without saying that you should pay close attention!

Of course, any great healthcare leader should also relay messages and communicate with others clearly and with purpose. To lead a great team effectively, you need to inspire and encourage – not simply shout or relay orders. The more efficiently you communicate, the more respect you will garner from others. Active listening is a transferable skill that will also help you go far in life elsewhere!

Strategic thinking

As a healthcare leader, you will always need to think on your feet. In this industry, lives and livelihoods are at stake all around you! That means you will need to be very careful in how you resolve problems on the go. 

Panicking and getting overwhelmed are no means to solving major problems in healthcare settings. You need to be able to keep a calm head and detach yourself emotionally from puzzles and problems. This way, you can focus on them practically and use your available resources to solve far-ranging issues affecting many different people.

When you enroll in nursing leadership courses such as those available at Baylor University, you’ll likely find that learning how to solve problems strategically – and in the heat of the moment – is just one core element you’ll cover early on. However, if you can enter the job with a sharp, analytical mindset, you are already halfway to winning the battle.


Before entering any role in healthcare, you should always keep in mind that you will need to be flexible and adaptable. You never truly know what problems you will face from day to day, nor where your staff may need you in a healthcare setting at any given moment!

This applies to healthcare leaders as much as it does triage nurses. As a leader, you may need to lead one team on a Monday, then cover for a completely different department the day after. Many healthcare workers expect that no two days will ever be the same – but are you ready to handle this on the job?

If you are the sort of person who loves trying new things and looks forward to meeting new people, you may already be in a great position to start out as a nurse or medical professional. This attitude will help you scale further, too, as it will ensure you are ready to take on some of the more flexible aspects of supervision cross-department.

Do also remember that you will likely need to specialize in various care standards to succeed as a healthcare leader. For example, one day you may lead a team in an oncology ward, and the next, you may be helping seniors with their mental health

Nursing education will take you through the finer points of what you need to know – but the willingness to be flexible will help you even further in this career trajectory.

Emotional stability

A great nursing or healthcare leader never gets in a flap! If you want to succeed as a leader in this industry, you must be resilient against emotions that may arise during the working day.

You will likely feel lots of different stresses and strains – it is part of the territory – but ultimately, remember how rewarding leading in healthcare can be! You are doing incredible work for people in dire need of support.

You shouldn’t completely close yourself off from people. Empathy is a fantastic trait that will serve you well when communicating with patients and leading a team of nurses or other professionals.

However, it is important to try and detach yourself emotionally from the role in some ways. For example, getting too emotionally invested in a particular patient can lead to additional stress for all involved.

Giving into strong emotions when trying to manage a team on a busy day can also lead to problems for patients as well as the running of your department.

Therefore, if you have a firm resolve and are willing to separate life and work (just for a few hours a day), you are already in a good position to learn how to lead a healthcare team.

Is leading a healthcare team worth it?

While we have painted a picture of what healthcare leadership may look like from day to day, don’t worry – it is an immensely rewarding position that, once you are on your way up the healthcare ladder, you’ll feel confident and ready to handle.

Leading a healthcare team means you are responsible for those who provide people with crucial medical support and guidance. Without you, people may not be able to lead full, healthy lives. You can make an incredibly positive difference, and that is surely worth striving for!

Above all, make sure to learn the skills of the trade through a reputable university and build your management skills along the way. You will be a fantastic healthcare leader in no time.