01 August 2011

Self as coach: Professional renewal through strength and character

One of the most significant challenges leaders face is how best to maintain optimism, hope and a sense of renewal when confronted with competing commitments, conflicts and struggles that are a part of leadership responsibilities. Nurse leaders need to engage inner work in order to more effectively provide outer service (Pesut, 2001). Renewal is accomplished by clarifying one’s strengths, values, gifts and talents—and using them with intention. A strengths and character-based approach to personal and professional renewal helps people appreciate and value their signature themes and natural talents. Knowing what one’s signature strengths and values are promotes personal mastery and self-management in the creation of a purpose-driven life.

Some leaders choose to work with professional coaches to discern their strengths and learning edges. Others believe there is value in developing self as coach, through deliberate inquiry and practices connected to personal and professional renewal efforts. I encourage leaders I know to use two assessments to obtain information about signature and character strengths. The first is the VIA Survey from the VIA Institute on Character. This instrument assesses strength in character. Based on responses to a series of questions, the instrument rank orders 24 character strengths and then groups them by the virtue categories of wisdom, courage, humility, justice, temperance or transcendence. Knowledge of character strengths and learning edges promotes insight, action and development.

Another resource I think is most valuable for nursing leaders is the book, Strengths Based Leadership, by Tom Rath and Barrie Conchie (Rath & Conchie, 2009). This book provides access to the Gallup Corporation StrengthsFinder assessment tool. Knowing what your top five signature strengths are gives voice to your talents and skill mix. Even more valuable, this reference and resource provides specific strength by strength-based strategies to help a leader master most of the characteristics that followers want in leaders: trust, compassion, stability and hope. The best thing nursing leaders can do to strengthen the profession is to know what values support and sustain individual character and how to support followers through intentional activation of personal strengths and virtues.

References and Resources:
Pesut, D.J. (2001). Healing into the future: Recreating the profession of nursing through inner work. In N. Chaska (Ed.), The nursing profession: Tomorrow and beyond (pp. 853-867). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2009). Strengths based leadership. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.