The terms leaders and managers have been used interchangeably by most people. However, scholars have tried to illustrate that the terms are not actually the same. It is argued that an individual who is not necessarily a manager may still make a great leader.  At the same time, studies have shown that there are many managers today without leadership skills (Joint Commission Resources, 2009).

The difference between a nurse leader and nurse manager

Many scholars have proposed that nurse leaders do not have a delegated authority but their power is informally given to them by other members of the group. On the other hand a nurse manager’s status is provided by a formal role given by someone else. Contrary to nurse leaders, a nurse manager therefore has an assigned position within the institution (Joint Commission Resources, 2009). The main focus of a nurse leader is on how to empower, motivate, inspire and influence others. Managers are expected to carry out specific and definite responsibilities. The major functions of a nurse manager may include control, decision making, leadership and coordination (Joint Commission Resources, 2009). Nurse leaders generally have good communication and interpersonal skills. They are sincere and put much energy in their work. They are generally risk takers though they practice it with reservations not as to be interpreted as being reckless by the people they lead. On the other hand, good nurse managers are skilled in coordinating resources. Such resources include both the financial and human resources. The need for leadership skills among the nurse managers is therefore in evitable.  Nurse Managers also ensures that the institutional rules are followed while at the same time meeting the goals and the objectives of the organization (Joint Commission Resources, 2009). The utilization of formal and informal leadership strategies has made it possible for the nurse managers to impact the vision and values of their institutions to their subjects. The nurse managers of any given health institution have the responsibility of delivering a patient-centered care (Derevin, 2009). The nurse managers must also use their leadership skills in promoting team work with a focus on improving the quality using the new technologies. From my observation, most of the successful nurse managers’ possess strong and diverse leadership skills at every level of the care continuum. Different health cares have therefore taken it upon themselves to develop leaders to help in the management of their organizations. Nurse Managers are trained on the use of creativity and innovation in addressing the emerging pressures in the field of nursing. The nurse leaders ensure that the various processes and activities are measured, accessed and improved systematically throughout the hospital. They strive to establish the healthcare services that respond to the need of the community and the patients (Derevin, 2009). For a nurse to provide excellent patient care in hospitals, he or she requires effective leadership coupled with knowledge in planning, directing, coordinating, providing and improving health care services. These functions, especially planning and coordination require some management skills. The effective nurse leadership with such management skills creates a clear vision for the future and defines the organizational values. Nurse Managers are increasingly assuming leadership roles in hospitals and other acute care facilities as coordinators to improve the quality of patient outcomes. Nurse Managers have the multidisciplinary focus which enables them to implement leadership strategies that enhance communication and interpret the goals of the patient care (Derevin, 2009).

Personal Observations

During my own observation with different clinical settings, I have found out that even though differences exist between the nurse manager and the nurse leader, their roles can overlap. Nurses are therefore in most cases encouraged to have both the qualities. I have witnessed nurses assuming the roles of a leader and a manager at the same time. The major focus of nurses is not only to do the right work but also to ensure that they do it in the right way. The combined role of nurses as a leader and a manager is necessitated by the rapid and the dramatic changers that is a usual phenomenon in the health sector. The nurses have therefore practiced and utilize both the leadership and the management skills to thrive in their duties. I have noted that a high percentage of those who thrive in their profession as nurses are those who have a clear vision of the future of their organizations. They must also be able to lead their subject towards achieving the vision. It is therefore not unusual to find that several nurses have assumed both the management and the leadership roles in their institutions. For a better performance, the top management of many health institutions have insisted on the knowledge of management and supervisory as a mandatory necessity Nurse leaders can be managers but not all nurse leaders are. It is noted that the expectation of leadership varies with less responsibilities put on the new nurses. The new nurse leader may spend majority of their time providing care to the patients. But they have little inputs in decision making. They can simply propose improvements in the way things are done currently. Such nurse leaders may take the lead in presenting during service trainings All nurse managers do not have leadership skills. However, from my observation, Nurse Managers are increasingly employing leadership roles and qualities in the coordination and facilitation of patient-centered initiatives. Nurse Managers have in most cases forced to attend different trainings to expand their leadership skills. The trainings are aimed at ensuring that nurses in the managerial positions advances in playing the role of professional partnering. There is therefore a high chance of the realization of clinical, fiscal and quality outcomes in the institutions where the nurses are trained on leadership skills. Nurses Managers with leadership skills are able to advance and support patient centered care delivery. This is achieved by promoting the continuity of care, enhancing communication, and integrating the goals of patient care.


The assumption here is that nurses can incorporate both the management and leadership fundamentals to help develop competency in their profession. However, some scholars have proposed that clinical proficiency and leadership are not congruous. Some argue that a nurse leader can not provide the direct care (Derevin, 2009). Such proponents argue that the obligation of a nurse leader is to create a favorable environment for other nurses to provide care. This disagreement on nurses’ leadership has led to the development of programs for nurses. Such programs aim at developing their corporate and political skills. Opponents of this view have criticized it citing it as the main cause of the destruction of the nursing knowledge (Derevin, 2009).