Can We Talk?: Taking the Lead

Karen Zulkowski, DNS, RN, CWS

     Leadership is the ability to guide, direct, or influence people. A leader can be an individual or a group of people. Leadership can be taking a chance personally or professionally to make a change in your work or practice setting, community, country, or the world. We all have the ability to be leaders.

     Becoming a leader and standing up for core values are not without risk. Because potential or actual leaders often are the targets of criticism and disdain, persons striving to lead may become discouraged and give up. After all, blending in with the crowd is far easier and “safer” than risking rejection, especially rejection from peers and coworkers.

     In wound care, being a leader may be as simple as saying, “Let’s try this new product. I have been reading the evidence and it is compelling” or “Our policies need revision” or “We need to educate the medical and nursing staff about ‘modern dressings’.” Leadership may involve challenging tradition to improve practice and to make a difference in quality of care for our patients. It requires persistence, perseverance, and conviction.

     Because of the effort involved, we often fail to act. It is far easier to maintain the status quo than to try a new approach. In choosing inaction (whether leading or following), we fail to try to understand the position of others, only seeing how ideas different from our own may align us with people and beliefs we may not have previously accepted. We fail to look at all sides of a problem or issue, perhaps simply because we are too busy or too tired or feel a lack of power to effect change. Leadership is associated with being at the “top” but to get there everyone has to start at the bottom. It takes work to climb that figurative mountain. The journey is much better in supportive company.

     We need to examine what we can do to be leaders as well as how we can nurture, support, and encourage persons trying to make a difference. It is far easier to sit on the sidelines and say what’s wrong than to lend a hand and make a difference. We should stop passive-aggressively criticizing and find ways to help potential leaders succeed. If we have differing opinions, we need to explore the basis for ideas and beliefs in an attempt to understand conflicting positions. Above all, can we talk? Yes!

     Let’s all strive to become leaders for our profession by sharing information, not attitude. By being patient-centered, not self-centered, and open to evolving practices, we can find new and better ways to provide care.


This article was not subject to the Ostomy Wound Management peer-review process.