The hidden treasure in nursing leadership: informal leaders


Marty Downey
Boise State University
1910 University Drive
ID 83725-1840


downey m., parslow s. & smart m. (2011) Journal of Nursing Management19, 517–521
The hidden treasure in nursing leadership: informal leaders

Aim  The goal of the present article was to generate awareness of characteristics of informal leaders in healthcare with the emphasis on nurses in acute care settings. There is limited research or literature regarding informal leaders in nursing and how they positively impact nursing management, the organization and, ultimately, patient care. Identification of nurses with leadership characteristics is important so that leadership development and mentoring can occur within the nursing profession.

Background  More than ever, nursing needs energetic, committed and dedicated leaders to meet the challenges of the healthcare climate and the nursing shortage. This requires nurse leaders to consider all avenues to ensure the ongoing profitability and viability of their healthcare facility.

Key issues  This paper discusses clinical nurses as informal leaders; characteristics of the informal nurse leader, the role they play, how they impact their unit and how they shape the organization.

Implication for nursing management  Informal nurse leaders are an underutilized asset in health care. If identified early, these nurses can be developed and empowered to impact unit performance, efficiency and environmental culture in a positive manner.