Nursing teams have the potential to be dynamic and powerful entities, and creating and maintaining them is a process worthy of considerable attention.

Cultivating a team

When we think of teams, our minds may quickly consider the notion of an athletic team as a prime example. A sports team trains together, travels together and competes as a coordinated unit whose mission is to act as a collective entity.

The coach cajoles a team into action and cohesiveness. To that end, the coach will employ various techniques to motivate the individual members (and the collective team organism) toward optimal function and success.

Cultivating team spirit and camaraderie among nurses is not something to be left to chance. Having said that, many managers who lack the savvy or willingness to manifest a winning team will often leave the group to its own devices. This is like cutting a team off at the knees before it even begins to walk.

Work and determination are essential for a team's success, and leadership is one of the key ingredients for manifesting positive outcomes.

Nurse leaders take the reins

It is beholden upon progressive nurse leaders to employ superlative leadership skills in order to elicit the best from their teams. While a team can potentially lead itself to success without centralized guidance, the importance of intelligent and sensitive leadership cannot be overstated.

The individual leadership style of any nurse leader will be informed by many factors, experiences and values, and a nurse leader can — just like the team fail miserably, perform marginally well or excel beyond expectations.

We nurses may not receive the formal education we truly need in order to be the leaders our teams deserve, thus it is incumbent upon every nurse leader to take the reins of his or her own experience, ascertaining what is most salient to the situation at hand. Effective leadership can be learned, and the conscientious nurse leader will proactively seek out the necessary knowledge and skills.

The power of style

Leadership styles vary widely, from autocratic heavy-handedness to anarchistic free-for-alls. Neither of those extremes work well for 21st-century nurses, thus the thoughtful leader must find the path that is the best fit for all concerned.

Leadership style is reflected in myriad factors, including decision-making processes, workplace culture and interpersonal communication. A nurse leader may need to alter his or her style based upon the makeup of the team and the needs of the organization, but certain styles of leadership are likely to produce better results when practiced conscientiously and consistently.

While nurses may enjoy a certain level of structure and predictability, they also like a significant level of autonomy. Guidelines, policies and procedures are clearly important to safe clinical practice, but leadership based on a dictatorial style will not be terribly popular or effective.

When individual participation is encouraged, and nurses' voices are heeded, a leader can more easily generate trust and cohesiveness within the team. Since nurses are without a doubt "the boots on the ground," listening closely to their input, experiences and opinions will go a long way toward building that trust.

Listen and build trust

A nurse leader who cultivates a style of inclusiveness, openness, curiosity, respect and trust will achieve greater success vis-a-vis team performance and cohesiveness. Listening, respecting and honoring your nurses' voices will assist in building teams that reflect those values.

And when a team is built upon such values, success is most certainly assured.