I remember the interview I had to do to become a deputy charge nurse as if it were yesterday rather than almost 3 years ago. I remember telling the panel the story of the sun and the wind, how they made a wager to see which one could remove a traveller’s cloak. The wind tried to blow it off forcibly, which only made the traveller hold on to it tighter. But the sun shone down gently and the traveller took it off on his own accord. After which I smiled benignly and said ‘well, I want to be the sun.’

‘Well, if you wanna be the sun, you’d better shine pretty damn brightly!’ the leader of the panel spat.

And when I walked out of there, I was pretty damn certain that my shine was definitely not enough to get that job.

But in spite of this, I was chosen for the position, so I guess in that short interview they must have seen something in me. And I have learnt so much about myself and my leadership style which is why I felt I could write this post.

There are so many ‘what makes a good leader’ articles out there that I decided to give mine a twist…

What makes a BAD leader?

1) playing the blame game. If you have made a bad decision, own it, learn from it, grow up and move on. Finding excuses be it circumstance or other human beings makes you look sad and weak. The staff respect you a lot more if you admit to a mistake and discuss possible ways to correct it, rather than say it was someone else’s fault, shrug your shoulders and let someone else solve the problem or simply sweep it under the carpet which will lead to a pile of resent.

2) treat everyone the same. Don’t play favourites. Some members of staff are great. Some are assholes. The rules apply to everyone, no matter what.

3) don’t micro-manage. Your underling doesn’t make the bed exactly like you do? It does not actually matter. You can suggest, but if her method works too, don’t force your ways upon her. 

4) work with your staff. If a doctor asks for a blood pressure of a patient, don’t run around the ward searching for one of the staff to do it. Just do it yourself. Yes, you are in management but that does not mean that you don’t practice any bedside nursing anymore or that it is now beneath you. Don’t be a princess. Be a nurse.

5) flexibility: yes, our shifts start at 6.30am. But if one of your staff has to come from the other end of the island by public transport after bed-bathing her bed bound father with end-stage lung carcinoma in the morning and arrives at work by 6.50am, you do not deduct half an hour from her leave. You frickin’ close an eye and pretend you didn’t notice. Especially if it’s a one time offence. 

6) don’t change your mind every five seconds. For example when it comes to patient allocation. Think a bit, then decide. Don’t decide ad hoc and then move people around over and over and basically play ping-pong with the nursing staff. It makes you look fickle and untrustworthy and like you do not know what you are doing.

7) don’t make sexual jokes or remarks with staff of the opposite sex. Just do not do it. Apart from the fact that it is very creepy, these kind of comments make you lack self-respect, and if you don’t respect yourself, how can anyone else?

8) knowledge: if you do not know something and of course it is impossible to know everything, look it up, ask and find out. ‘I don’t know’ simply doesn’t cut it.  Also, it’s dangerous. You have a professional obligation to keep up to date. And as a leader, it’s imperative.

9) bad personal hygiene: you think your staff don’t realise that you smell? Trust me, they do and they make fun of you. And it reflects so badly on the leader…I mean, a leader of a brigade who is too lazy to take a shower? Seriously?

10) constantly bickering and fighting with staff publicly. 

11) forgetting to sign important documents for your staff: the nurses need the charge nurses’ approval for everything: change in shift, leave, study leave etc. Forgetting a document means that one of the nurses won’t get paid or will have a major fuck-up with personnel which she will have to fix, which is time consuming because they only see people within stipulated 2hr slots…for the entire hospital.

The long and the short of it remains:

Until next time, folks.