Leaders vs. Managers in Nursing

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 4
Words: 1181
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College

Nursing leaders play an essential role in the process of care quality improvement by leading others. In their turn, managers bridge the gap between administrative and bedside care roles by dealing with a set of challenging daily tasks. Both roles require a high level of expertise, knowledge, and particular technical skills (Alvinius, 2017). Every medical setting needs both excellent managers and leaders since one person is rarely able to do everything. Companies usually select managers from individuals who possess the most appropriate knowledge and skills to align their staff with the organization’s goals and ensure they operate efficiently and adequately (Martic, 2020). On the contrary, a leadership position may be informal, and its main call is to drive positive change within an organization by inspiring and influencing the workforce. Thus, these roles are not the same and require a slightly different set of mind, knowledge, and personal characteristics.

In general, leaders set and transfer the organization’s vision, mission, and goals to the management and build trust through communication. In their turn, managers are expected to follow it and ensure the staff’s achievement of objectives and task fulfillment. What is more, leaders are responsible for seizing the opportunity for organizational improvement and idea generation (Alvinius, 2017). They apply authentic communication and continuous feedback to engage with the staff empowering and inspiring them to pursue the company’s initiatives. Leaders are also in charge of setting and communicating a sound organizational culture company-wide. They must ensure the alignment of culture with their business strategy to enable the achievement of goals (Martic, 2020). Conversely, managers are bothered with execution, leading people with different responsibilities and functions to efficient operation and productivity. The continuous support and endorsement of the culture within units refers to the managerial role. They also expected to ensure a positive work experience for employees driving their success. Both roles should overlap and collaborate to achieve perfect communication, decision-making, and crisis/change management.

To be more precise, nurse managers deal with financial and human resources applying their decision-making authority to control particular health care processes. For instance, the list of their duties may include managing teams of nurses, patient care planning, overseeing staff training, quality improvement, and budgeting (Murray, 2017). In other words, they work as intermediaries between authorities and teams of employees, being their primary source of assistance and guidance. Nurse managers direct health professionals in daily/long-term patient care and oversee the application of evidence-based health care practices. They as well focus on safety and patient quality of care but up a level compared to managers. They strategically lead managers and RNs by setting standards and quality measures, spearheading organizational transformation, implementing and promoting evidence-based practices, and mentoring other professionals.

Nevertheless, leaders and managers have many characteristics and tasks in common. Both roles are established to direct and help the team achieve a common goal. Both require such skills as mentoring, communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills. Collaborative work and excellent communication between leaders and managers are crucial for the company’s success. They also should envision and believe in a better future, deploy critical thinking skills, and continue self-improvement.

The first example of a person with excellent managerial skills would be Alex Ferguson, a famous football manager. He proved his outstanding managerial skills by building a dynasty out of Manchester United that dominated the UK and European football for decades. Scotsman remains the most titled manager in the history of British football winning domestic competitions thirteen times (Nimco, 2016). He was both leader and manager in the team, especially during the last decade before retiring in 2013.

His management skills and personal confidence helped him transfer vision to the players and set standards and expectations for each of them using individual methods to discipline and motivate. Some of them were harshly criticized for their bad behavior or performance, while others received support and praise when they needed it most. Ferguson’s traits and excellent communication with players resulted in a sound organizational culture that embraced competition and ongoing self-development. Everyone knew what their manager expects from them, how they should play, and which goal they should achieve together. In times of hardships, he proved to be a strong leader by displaying determination and resilience and was open to a positive transformation of playstyle or squad selection.

Another person with great leadership skills is one nurse I heard about that works in a surgical ICU in a busy hospital. Although he had only four years of experience, he already managed to become a leader by supporting professionals around him and promoting care quality improvement within his unit. The team members were motivated and engaged, which kept high morale and confidence among the team. The local leader was open to helping newer nurses if they were asking for advice. The pursuit of improvement within the unit or promotion of evidence-based practices would not be possible without the proper dedication and role modeling. Leaders should model with their actions everything they expect to see from their colleagues or subordinates (Murray, 2017). Another essential trait of his is the flexibility to embrace and support change and transformation processes. Health professionals who work side by side with such leaders are motivated, encouraged for self-development, and open to health care innovations, and their goals align with the hospital’s ones. As a result, the unit is famous for high employee retention and patient satisfaction rate with care quality and safety.

Another example would also be the nursing manager that I heard about from my older colleagues. She is one that could be labeled a toxic manager, someone who lacks communication skills, is arrogant and has unrealistic expectations. This manager was criticized for talking too much about herself during staff meetings, ignoring the accomplishments of others, and sharing information with a limited circle of professionals. She also blamed staff for not meeting goals such as reducing discharge time and did not listen to the concerns of other practitioners.

Moreover, the manager opposed any ideas considering improvement of reporting during shift change as she believed it worked perfectly. Her poor managerial skills and decisions ultimately resulted in a hostile work environment that decreased job satisfaction within the unit and the retention of nurses. Inferior management in medical facilities adversely affects critical thinking, leads to higher absenteeism, and lack of cooperation, and complicates decision making, problem-solving, and innovation. Even if the hospital had outstanding leadership, a toxic manager would not be able to transfer its vision, and mission properly communicates expectations, and encourage staff to put in additional efforts. A hostile work environment may lead to lower patient satisfaction with care and the unwillingness of the members to embrace change.

To conclude, both nursing leaders and managers are crucial for the successful operation of a medical facility. Leaders are responsible for setting standards, goals, and inspiration for others, while managers are more task-oriented, overseeing and guiding the day-to-day activities of their subordinates. Although they play slightly different roles, leaders and managers should work side by side to ensure that the hospital’s goals are aligned with its policies and strategy and that every practitioner is engaged.


Alvinius, A. (2017). Contemporary leadership challenges. InTechOpen.

Martic, K. (2020). Leadership vs. management: The five main differences. Smarp. Web.

Murray, E. (2017). Nursing leadership and management. F. A. Davis Company.

Nimco, M. (2016). Five successful traits that business leaders can take from Sir Alex Ferguson. Geneva Business News. Web.