Being a Nurse Leader

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A nurse leader is a vital position in the health care field. It is vital to have a nurse leader who is responsible, leads with integrity, who can communicate in a fair manner to their team and someone who will be trustworthy in their role (Ledlow & Stephens, 2018). In order to fulfill the role of a leader in a successful way, a leader must develop vital leadership skills. Leadership is a process of learning, of evolving and most importantly of influencing others in a positive way (Lewlow & Stephens, 2018). This paper will focus on the leadership style of Dr. Jeanne Murphy, assistant professor of nursing at the George Washington University.

Dr. Jeanne Murphy received her Masters of Science in Nursing in Maternal/Newborn Nursing/Nurse-Midwifery from Yale University and her Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. She also has a certification in Diabetes Care from Yale and a Graduate Certificate in Health Disparities and Health Inequality from The Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Murphy has co-authored over 12 nursing publications focusing on cancer research. She has received multiple awards and has completed numerous fellowships in the nursing field.

She is currently conducting research on human breastmilk for breast cancer prevention, lactation and cervical HPV infection, cervical cancer screening and midwifery care of women with opioid use disorder. I chose to interview Dr. Murphy because I have admired the teaching styles that she has used during our maternal health course this semester. I also wanted to learn more about her leadership style and her background. Dr. Murphy’s URL can be found on the George Washington University’s website at https://nursing.gwu.edu/jeanne-murphy.

Leadership Innovation

Leadership is a “combination of position, responsibilities, attitudes, skills, and behaviors that allow someone to bring out the best in others, and the best in their organization, in a sustainable manner” (Ledlow & Stephens, 2018). A leader is also someone who can motivate a team to pull them towards success and can adapt to different situations. In the healthcare field it is important for a leader to create a culture of innovation and be able to influence others in order to produce innovative work, ideas, and services. During this interview, Dr. Murphy talked about how her specific type of leadership was not just one style but was a combination of many different leadership styles that she had learned over the years from her teachers, co-workers, mentors and other leaders in the nursing field. Dr. Murphy also talked about the importance of being able to adapt to different personalities or situations in order to get the job done.

The healthcare industry continues to move at a rapid pace and the best way for a leader to provide innovative leadership is to use the “manage, steer, and create” model (Lewlow & Stephens, 2018). Using this model, healthcare leaders should be able to “manage the present, steer to the next horizon, and create the future” (Ledlow & Stephens, 2018). During this interview, Dr. Murphy described similar aspects to this model and talked about the importance of recognizing what the present situation is as well as looking towards the future in the healthcare field. She related this to her cancer research because she said this specific subject is always changing and it is important to stay on top of the newest research in this field.

Transformational Leadership

When asked about her individual leadership style, Dr. Murphy did not identify herself as a natural leader. She said that she had always wanted to be a leader but that it was something that she had to learn and adapt to during her nursing career. Dr. Murphy said that she related to servant leadership style the most out of any type of leadership. Dr. Murphy described servant leadership as being a leader who is there is serve the organizations and that it is not about you. She also described her leadership style as being able to be adaptive, which is similar to a transformational or situational leadership style.

These types of leadership style emphasize that there is no direct or single type of leadership that can work in every situation and that it is vital to be able to know how to adapt depending on the situation at hand (Ledlow & Stephens, 2018). Transformational leadership has been identified as one of the most important “predictors of individual success and active involvement in healthcare delivery teams” (Ledlow & Stephens, 2018). Dr. Murphy said that she learned how to be a leader by paying attention, volunteering for things, being persistent and stepping up to the plate even when she did not feel confident. These components are all responsibilities of transformational leaders.

Leading Teams

According to authors Kouzes & Posner (2016), a good leader will build trust between team members and will promote a common end goal. When it comes to leading teams Dr. Murphy talked about the importance of having a clear set of goals that everyone can understand. She emphasized the importance of promoting confidence within the team and giving people substantive projects to do themselves. Throughout her career, Dr. Murphy said that she has learned how significant it is to give people substantive projects to complete themselves to promote independence, but also to be there for them if they need support.

Dr. Murphy also vocalized that one of her main goals when leading a team is to make sure that she practiced the same things in her own life that she taught her team. This type of team leadership is similar to the idea of “Modeling the Way” and “Encouraging the Heart” (Kouzes & Posner, 2016). A good leader will always have clear guiding principles and values and will live their own lives with values of integrity (Kouzes & Posner, 2014). A good leader will also use encouragement to motivate and inspire others to achieve the overall goal of the organization (Kouzes & Posner, 2016).

Emotional Competence and Spirituality

In all aspects of healthcare, it is vital to be emotionally competent. Exemplary leaders are able to control their own emotional self and are also aware of their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Leaders who are able to “control their emotional self, are cognizant of their sources and level of power” (Ledlow & Stephens, 2018). Dr. Murphy emphasized the fact that having emotional competence is not only important for nursing leadership but for all of life in general. She said that it is important for leaders to have a direct sense of their own emotions so that they can lead groups.

Dr. Murphy stressed the importance of being able to manage the balance between emotions and leadership. She talked about learning how to manage many different kinds of people and different groups by being persistent, focusing on increasing her team’s confidence and being proud of the accomplishments that are achieved. Dr. Murphy’s description of emotional competence related to the four basic constructs of the emotional intelligence model that Ledlow and Stephens (2018) provide: “(1) self-awareness, (2) self-management, (3) social awareness, and (4) social skills”.

It is vital to know oneself if someone wants to become a leader. It is also vital to be aware of the importance of a support system and whatever kind of spirituality works for you. Dr. Murphy mentioned that while she did work in a Catholic hospital, she does not have a direct relationship with the general concept of spirituality in her leadership career. She said her focus was more on her overriding mission to take care of other people and that was where she found her spirituality.

Spirituality can mean many different things to many different people, so it is important for leaders to be aware of what this concept means to them. While the absence of the concept of spirituality in leadership may be a common practice, more and more leaders are working to address this subject and to open up the conversation for a professional discussion (Ledlow & Stephens, 2018).

Crisis Management

It is also important for a leader to adapt to different circumstances in order to lead others in stressful situations so the team can take good care of patients and to keep them safe. When asked about crisis management, Dr. Murphy highlighted the importance of refocusing the team to achieve the overall goal of whatever organization that a leader is working with. She said it is vital to work through the crisis by promoting confidence within the team and by being clear yet firm about the overall goal. Good nursing leaders need to be prepared to manage crisis situations in the health care field (Ledlow & Stephens, 2018). Dr. Murphy mentioned a specific time that her team was experiencing a crisis situation and was not able to get things done so she clearly stated that this is the way that she saw things and this is what needed to be done. She said in that specific situation and in crisis situations in general, it is important to be persistent and to not give up.

Change and Conflict

Dr. Murphy emphasized that conflict within healthcare organizations are bound to happen and sometimes cannot be avoided, but that the best way to deal with change or conflict is to face in a respectful and if necessary, a quiet way. When faced with change or conflict, Dr. Murphy talked about how important it is to talk to team members as soon as possible and to deal with the conflict or change as it comes up. It is important to create mutual trust between the team and the leader to create the foundation for a conversation when conflict or change does arise (Kouzes & Posner, 2016).


Interviewing Dr. Murphy about leadership was very educational and inspirational, especially as a nursing student. Dr. Murphy talked about how her experiences taught her how to become a leader, even though it was not an inherent trait of hers. She described how she learned leadership by paying attention, volunteering, continuing to be persistent and by just showing up. She said that when she initially begins to lead a team, her main focus is to emphasize the overall goal and to build confidence and independence within her teammates. A great leader is one who supports his or her teammates, who strives to lift people up and who is able to adapt to different situations that occur (Kouzes & Posner, 2018). As a leader, Dr. Murphy exemplifies all of the great leadership traits that we have learned about over this course. Dr. Murphy is a wonderful example of an inspiring leader that we as nursing students should aspire to be like one day.


  1. Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z. (2016). Learning leadership: The five fundamentals of becoming an exemplary leader. New York, NY: The Leadership.
  2. Ledlow, G.R., & Stephens, J.H. (2018). Leadership for health professionals: Theory, skills, and applications (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Cite this paper

Being a Nurse Leader. (2021, Nov 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/being-a-nurse-leader/

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