Leadership requires the willingness to engage in courageous conversations. Courageous conversations serve a variety of purposes but always provide us with opportunities to reflect, evaluate, create new understandings, and shift perspectives. Certainly, the recent Presidential election has prompted many courageous conversations – and many, many more to come. When we fail to have courageous conversations, we fail to communicate fully and we fail to make decisions based on wholistic perspectives. Courageous conversations expose competing and synergistic needs, and pave the way toward mutually beneficial solutions and advancements.
As nurse leaders, we are obligated to engage in courageous conversations with the people in our care, on behalf of the people in our care, on behalf of our profession, our co-workers, our students, and our staff. These conversations may take place at the individual level, the organizational level, at state, regional, and national levels. As nurse board leaders, we are in positions to engage in courageous conversations about strategic direction of organizations – Who benefits from policy decisions and who is disadvantaged by the same decisions? Why do certain processes exist and for whom? What issues are accepted as normal and why is status quo normalized? Why are certain metrics never discussed? Why are funds allocated the way they are and what could be the outcome of a shift in allocations? The list goes on… Considering the fiduciary responsibilities inherent in governance and the obligations inherent in nursing to advocate and act for social justice, the ability to engage in cogent and articulate courageous conversations is a key skill set for all nurse board leaders (in fact, all nurse leaders and all board leaders regardless of profession).
Engaging in these essential conversations may be uncomfortable, especially if we are unaccustomed to exposing controversial issues and championing critical issues. However, if we are guided by fiduciary principles and the values of nursing, we create a pathway to engage confidently and courageously. The conversations are extensions of our roles, positions, and responsibilities. And it bears stating that when we are on the receiving end of courageous conversations, we are equally obligated to prioritize fiduciary guiding principles and nursing values over personal needs and emotions, to make considerations in the best interests of the people and organizations we serve.
Courageous conversations usher in opportunities for broadened perspectives, collaborative decision making, and advanced initiatives to improve health and healthcare (or whatever the topic at hand). Conversely, failure to engage in courageous conversations are opportunities lost. As nurse leaders, when we accept the responsibility to engage in strategic courageous conversations, we create an environment of possibility to move beyond status quo and toward advancements in health, healthcare, and social justice. A key skill set for nurse board leaders, courageous conversations align with the values of nursing and transfer directly to advocacy in the C-suite, on the unit, in the department, in the community, and in the boardroom.