The worsening shortage of nurses and nursing faculty has accentuated the current and future shortage of nurse leaders within clinical and educational settings. Clinical organizations (e.g., Oncology Nursing Society; American Association of Critical Care Nurses; Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses) have identified the need to develop leaders within the profession, as has Sigma Theta Tau International. In addition, these associations have developed programs by which individuals can develop their leadership abilities for use in practice settings.
The need for strong nursing leadership is equally acute within academia. In fact, the winter 2003 issue of New Directions for Higher Education is titled “Identifying and Preparing Academic Leaders.” Because nursing education is not immune to this shortage of leaders, discussing leadership in nursing education is timely. While the authors of the articles and personal reflections on leadership in this issue of the Journal of Nursing Education provide unique perspectives on leadership in nursing education, all of them provide salient information. As the guest editors, we envisioned this issue as one replete with helpful information for those currently in leadership positions within nursing education, as well as for those aspiring to those positions and those who may not have yet considered this career opportunity. We believe our goal has been surpassed.
Komives, Lucas, and McMahon (1998) defined leadership as “a relational process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good” (p. 89). Kouzes and Posner (2002) believe leadership is “an observable set of skills and abilities that are useful whether one is in the executive suite or on the frontline” (p. 386). It is clear that leadership means different things to different people. In addition, leadership is not integral to a particular position. Although we often associate leadership with positions such as dean or director, leadership qualities are evident in a variety of positions.
Thus, in this issue, you will find articles that address interim leadership roles (Mundt), “travel tips” on how to transition into a dean or director position (Christensen), faculty roles in facilitating leadership transitions (Reilly and Morin), and deans' roles in developing environments (Potempa and Tilden). Moreover, a broader perspective of leadership is addressed in articles such as those written by Kirschling and Milone-Nuzzo and Lancaster. Recognizing that no leader is ever finished developing his or her leadership skills and abilities, Green and Ridenour provide helpful resources for ongoing leadership development.
We were also fortunate to have Dr. Rheba de Tornyay, Editor Emeritus of the Journal of Nursing Education, share her insights as a former dean and acclaimed nurse leader through a conversation with one of the guest editors (K.H.M.). Dr. de Tornyay's advice to current and future leaders is timely, thought provoking, and generous. Anyone considering a leadership role within academia should read her comments carefully and weigh her advice within the context of her extensive experience. Who better to share insights and wisdom as a guide to future nursing education leaders?
Nursing leadership within academia is critical to the future of nursing and the health care system. For experienced deans and directors, we hope this special issue enhances your repertoire of leadership skills and abilities. For those who aspire to formal academic leadership positions, we hope we have enticed you to consider incorporating formal leadership roles into your academic career trajectory. The challenges are great, but the rewards are greater. We wish much success to all who undertake this particular career trajectory!
- Komives, S.R., Lucas, N. & McMahon, T.R. (1998). Exploring leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z. (2002). The leadership challenge (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.