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Reflections from a Leadership Coach: Navigating These Uncertain Times

Published July 29, 2020

Contributed by Nancy Lamberton, Facilitator and Leadership Coach, The Nebo Company

With the volatility, uncertainty and change that nursing academic leaders face, even in the best of times, it makes it difficult to envision and plan for the future.  Now with the uncertainty and turbulence posed by the pandemic and the increased demands for racial equity and justice, leaders are finding that it is even more complex and perplexing to plan and advance nursing education while balancing the well being of faculty and students, shrinking budgets, political and social issues, and more.  

To many leaders it feels like trying to navigate across a body of water that is shrouded by a thick fog.  Leaders need to make decisions and to move forward towards the opposite shore, while hampered by the lack of visibility.  How do you find the courage to navigate the unknown?  What is too risky?  Where do you start?  Will you arrive at the destination that you desire?  How do you engage and inspire others to follow?

We have found that these five strategies are essential to adapting and surviving in the short-term and developing strategies and thriving in the long-term, especially in these uncertain times:

  1. Anchor in the institution's mission and values as sources for inspiration and purpose.
  2. Let the institution’s vision be your North Star and guide you directionally towards the future.  Explore how your vision needs to be tweaked, prioritized or shifted due to the current situation.
  3. Guide by what you CAN see! You have more information available to you than you think, including your past experience and intuitive sense, along with input from trusted mentors and colleagues.
  4. First things first: focus on what’s in front of you.  Plan in shorter intervals and check in often for changing conditions.
  5. Read the faint signals from the future.  Be alert to emerging ideas and trends that have the potential to make an impact on society and your nursing college program.

Developing your agility as a leader to move readily between survival tactics and strategic plans will make the unknown feel less threatening and more navigable -- and likely will open up new possibilities for the future.  Be encouraged that you have what you need to make those decisions and move boldly towards the future!

If you are a Dean of Nursing College, it is easier than ever to be connected to other Deans to help navigate today's rapidly changing and complex world of nursing academics. AACN now offers MentorLINK, an 8-month experience designed for Deans, combining one-on-one mentoring, cohort learning, and webinars on the latest in leadership development topics.  Visit AACN's website to find out more. Applications for Cohort 2 are now being accepted for both Mentees and Mentors. Deadline to apply is August 5, 2020.

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