Edith Cowan University, Western Australia in association with Khon Kaen University, Thailand and Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University, Thailand.
Who are the clinical nurse leaders? What are the qualities and characteristics of clinical nurse leaders? Why they are seen as clinical leaders and what might their experiences of clinical leadership be? This paper outlines a research project that sought to explore these questions. The research discussed involved surveying registered/qualified nurses (n = 830) who staffed 36 clinical areas in one acute NHS Trust in the English Midlands. The data proved a rich source of information about clinical leadership, the attributes of clinical leaders and who might be recognised as a clinical leader. The questionnaire was followed by interviews with 42 qualified nurses on four clinical areas in the same NHS Trust and these were followed by 8 further interviews with nurses identified from the interviews as clinical nurse leaders. The results demonstrate that clinical leaders appeared to be present at all nursing levels and in considerable numbers, but they were often not the most senior nurses and their approach to clinical leadership was based upon a foundation of care that was fundamental to their values and beliefs or view of nursing and care. This resulted in the proposition of a new leadership theory: Congruent Leadership. The attributes of clinical leaders appeared to be clinical competence, clinical knowledge, approachability, motivation, decision making, effective communication, being a role model, visibility and empowerment.