RNs are respected within health care teams as leaders. What are the leadership expectations for RNs in formal roles and as informal leaders?

  • RNs are responsible for practicing safely, competently and ethically, and are accountable to the client, public, employer and profession (1). They model professionalism in their interactions with others, utilize a solutions-based approach, and put the client’s needs at the center of their decision-making.
  • RNs are accountable and accept responsibility for their own actions and decisions (2).
  • RNs in all domains of practice demonstrate leadership in quality and ethical registered nursing practice, delivery of health care services, and establishing professional relationships (3).
  • RNs provide and support leadership in nursing for optimal coordination and provision of care (4). Leadership is sharing a vision and moving together towards the goal.
  • RNs coordinate the health care team to analyze and organize complex health challenges into manageable components for health care planning (5). While coordinating plans of care in complex situations, RNs challenge the status quo and seek new ways to support better outcomes for patients, families, communities and populations.
  • RNs recognize and respect the intrinsic worth of each person (6).
  • RNs work collaboratively to develop a moral community. As part of this community, all RNs acknowledge their responsibility to contribute to positive and healthy practice environments (7).
  • RNs act as formal and/or informal mentors to RNs, nursing students and colleagues to enhance and support professional growth (8).

What resources or support can I provide for RNs who are seeking to develop their leadership skills?

  • Support RNs to “lead from where they stand” by modeling the way and providing an example of positive leadership, by inspiring a shared vision, by encouraging them to challenge the process, by enabling them to act and share their knowledge and passion, and by encouraging their hearts when you recognize contributions and celebrate successes (adapted from Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge).
  • The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) Best Practice Guideline: Developing and Sustaining Nursing Leadership provides information to assist RNs in formal and informal leadership roles.
  • Collaborate with the professional practice leads and educators in your facility to develop a list of resources on leadership that can be accessed by RNs.
  • RNs may choose to develop their own leadership capabilities as part of their learning plan for the CRNS Continuing Competence Program. Encourage and support activities that highlight leadership activities at educational sessions for staff.
  • Participate in the CRNS Connects Facebook Group and share perspectives about leadership and share resources that have proven valuable.

CRNS Resources

Code of Ethics for registered nurses (2017)

Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)

Ask a Nursing Advisor: A Solutions-Based Approach for Practice Questions

Resource Key
1Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)Standard 1, page 4
2Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)Indicator 1, page 4
3Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)Standard 4, page 6
4Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)Indicator 40, page 6
5Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)Indicator 19, page 5
6Canadian Nurses Association Code of Ethics (2017)D, page 12
7Canadian Nurses Association Code of Ethics (2017)F8, page 16
8Registered Nurse Practice Standards (2019)Indicator 48, page 6


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