ONS defines nurse leadership skills

(Oncology Nurse) After a year in the making, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) has made available a leadership competencies document to help nurses understand the skills needed at the individual, group, and governance levels of leadership, and to enhance their personal and professional growth. Oncology Nursing Society Leadership Competencies provides a means for self-assessment and a foundation for future leadership education. 


The ONS leadership competencies project team was launched in the fall of 2011 to develop statements that would be relevant to oncology nurses regardless of their specific role or area of practice. The five nurse leaders on the team, representing administration, education, and clinical practice, conducted an extensive literature review of health care and business articles to identify and define relevant competencies. According to the project overview statement, the clear indication from this literature review was that a conceptual model was needed to visually describe the personal growth required to effectively advance as a leader. Such a model would describe an effective leadership pathway, including competencies needed from an individual level to a board level. Each competency builds upon the proficiency met at the individual level, which is the foundation for leading groups or serving in governance roles.

Once the leadership competencies were identified and defined, the document was made available for public comment, field review, and expert review. The competencies are divided into five domains.

Personal mastery A continuous domain of self-understanding, internal and external assessment, and personal growth as the leader develops the intrinsic skills and values that will serve at every level of leadership

Vision The ability to strategically look into the future, discern the possibilities, and act as a catalyst for change

Knowledge The continual and systematic pursuit, translation, and application of evidence-based information

Interpersonal effectiveness The ability to create and maintain productive interactions and positive relationships

Systems thinking Under­standing, interpreting, and acting upon the relationships and processes, both internal and external to the health care environment, to drive positive outcomes

Each domain is further broken down into competencies. For example, personal mastery consists of five competencies: introspection, self care, authenticity, lifelong learning, and adaptability.

Every competency presented is defined, and examples are given to show how each competency is manifested at the individual, group, and governance levels. The inspiration competency in the vision domain, for example, is defined as “a sense of confidence and excitement about the future and a climate that encourages and celebrates achievement.” At the individual level, a vision of the future is expressed with genuine enthusiasm. At the group level, team spirit is built and others are enlisted through collaboration of the shared vision. At the governance level, resources that enable the nurse to provide visibility of achieving the vision throughout the journey are enlisted.

The oncology nurse leader transitions among the three levels within a given competency depending on the skills needed at the practice level.

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