Perceptions of Leadership Characteristics in Baccalaureate Senior Nursing Students

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Linda Johanson, RN, EdD
School of Nursing, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, NC

Learning Objective 1: After viewing this poster presentation the learner will be able to state 14 characteristics that are correlated with good leadership in nurses.

Learning Objective 2: After viewing this poster presentation the learner will be able to state a method for ascertaining if student nurses perceive they possess good leadership characteristics.


The purpose for this research was to determine if senior nursing students in a private university in the southeastern USA perceive that they possess strong leadership characteristics at the conclusion of their nursing program.  Baccalaureate graduates will be required to assume leadership positions in the profession upon graduation.  This research was done as a part of program evaluation regarding the adequacy of leadership concepts taught in the curriculum


The senior classes were surveyed over three years to obtain three successive cohorts of data and a total sample of 63 students.  Participants in the mandatory nursing leadership course were asked to consider a recent situation in which they assumed a leadership role.  They were given a list of fourteen characteristics assembled from the literature noted to be important for leaders.  Each student was asked to rate their perception of their ability regarding that characteristic as “excellent”, “good”, “fair”, or “poor”.  They were required to provide rationale for each rating as well.


Recent experiences with leadership varied, including tutoring, fundraising, and leadership on work projects. The majority of students perceived themselves to be democratic leaders (56%).  The leadership characteristics perceived by the students to be strongest included:  Being visible to followers, treating followers as unique individuals, and establishing trust.  The characteristics perceived as the weakest included:  stimulating critical thinking, promoting innovation and risk-taking, and managing changes.  Overall, 82% of ratings for all characteristics were perceived as “excellent” or “good”.  Responses by the three cohorts did not vary significantly.


The senior nursing students at this university perceive that they strongly possess characteristics consistent with good leadership at the end of their nursing program. Faculty members have initiated strategies to promote more practice with critical thinking in this curriculum.