The Difference Between Nursing Management and Nursing Leadership

At first glance, nurse leaders and nurse managers may sound like the same thing, but in fact there are key differences between the two. One can be a leader without being a manager and, conversely, a manager without being a true leader. However, being a great manager does require strong leadership skills.

What makes someone a good leader? Generally, it comes down to qualities that are both learned and developed over time in a profession. While nurse managers hold a position of authority within their organization by way of their job title, this is not necessarily the same thing as having strong leadership skills.

What Is Nurse Management?

Processes that are handled by an organization’s nurse management team include staffing, organizing, delegating tasks, directing others, and planning. Registered nurses typically undergo further education in order to move into management-level positions. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is usually required.

Nurse Leader having a discussion with her nursing colleagues. Students studying for an MSN online at Loyola New Orleans can study Health Care Systems Management, which equips them with the skills and competencies that are essential for success in nursing management. The curriculum is designed to help nurse managers lead initiatives in evidence-based decision making, modern technology, and information and outcomes management.

Although leadership skills may not be necessary to reach a management position, they are often critical to being a successful manager who inspires confidence in others. Nurse managers who do not develop good leadership skills may struggle to build and maintain an effective and functioning team.

What Is Nurse Leadership?

A nurse leader is a nurse practitioner that can motivate their colleagues to fulfill the mission and vision of their organization. Their leadership may be formally delegated, or it may be more of an informal role. Leadership roles are particularly important in emergency departments and hospices due to the often stressful and sensitive nature of those environments.

While some managers may not necessarily make great leaders, great leaders generally make good managers. Leadership is about more than carrying out the duties and responsibilities that come with a management position — it is also about inspiring, motivating, and empowering others. True leaders lead by example and typically possess excellent interpersonal and communication skills.

Pathways to Nurse Leadership and Nurse Management

Many nurse leaders rise to management positions because they have the ambition to further their education and careers. That willingness to improve oneself and obtain higher levels of excellence is generally an intrinsic trait of leaders.

Both leaders and managers need to possess strong critical thinking skills. They must be able to see the big picture, and motivate their staff or peers to work together toward common goals.

There are many ways that nurse managers can develop their leadership skills and managerial abilities. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) offers opportunities to learn essential management and leadership skills, while also preparing for leadership positions. Formally developing these skills can open the door for nurse leaders to move into management, and also into greater leadership roles within their organization or the wider nursing profession.

Find out more about getting an MSN online with Loyola University New Orleans’ MSN degree.