There are many types of nurse leaders within the nursing ecosystem, and leadership styles can vary widely. For nurse leaders seeking to offer a balanced style of leadership that meets a wide variety of demands, considering both the left- and right-brain aspects of leadership is one good place to focus.

Right-brain nursing leadership

The right hemisphere is considered the creative, emotive side of the brain, and leaders who can embody aspects of the right brain in their leadership style can serve their organization and direct reports well. Right-brained leadership takes employees' emotional and spiritual wellness into consideration, tuning into the underlying psychoemotional tenor of the workplace.

In right-brained leadership models, the savvy nurse leader "reads" the group on an emotional and psychological level, making as-needed adjustments in workflow, communication, assignments, team structure and other aspects of the workplace.

Creativity and emotional intelligence in leadership can be powerful tools for the savvy nurse leader.

Left-brain nursing leadership

In left-brained leadership, the nurse leader creates solid policies and procedures, designs intelligent work flows, and otherwise oils the machine of the facility, practice or team in a way that maximizes efficiency and optimal function. Left-brained nursing leadership takes into consideration the macro and micro view of both intra- and inter-team function, as well as institutional capacity.

Procedures, organizational analysis, statistics, metrics and numbers are important in left-brained leadership. The intelligent 21st-century nurse leader understands how science, evidence-based decision-making and empirical thinking can lead to high-functioning teams and institutional survival at all levels, using quantitative information to inform decisions and initiatives.

Whole-brain nursing leadership

For leaders who want to straddle both hemispheres with a more holistic approach to nurse leadership, leading from the whole brain is a way to take into account both "sides" of the leadership paradigm.

Leaders who ignore the psychoemotional and spiritual aspects of their team in deference to numbers and policies on a day-to-day basis will quickly lose touch with important undercurrents that can undermine team efficiency and success. Meanwhile, nurse leaders who focus too singularly on the emotional and psychological aspects of the team or institution's life can miss opportunities for taking into consideration salient quantitative factors that should not be ignored.

The whole-brained nurse leader believes emotional wellness is crucial for members of the team and also bears in mind that policies and procedures must be followed in order to maintain a highly functioning work environment.

When both the so-called "hard" and "soft" aspects of nursing leadership are kept in balance, the leader can be at his or her most effective. And when the leader loses sight of one or the other, the workplace may feel unbalanced and out of kilter.

A savvy nurse leader engages his or her whole brain. This balanced form of leadership leads to institutional success and greater satisfaction for the team, both individually and collectively.