Leadership Lessons Learned

Find balance, slow down, seek feedback and more

nurse leadership

By Meredith Foxx, MSN, MBA, APRN, NEA-BC, Executive Chief Nursing Officer


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Good leaders know that an important part of success is continually learning and growing. This encompasses many things, from trying new experiences, asking questions and setting the bar higher to looking within, leveraging your weaknesses and challenging your comfort zone.

It’s been one year since I stepped into the role of Executive Chief Nursing Officer at Cleveland Clinic and in that time, I’ve learned a few new lessons in leadership.

  1. Accept that mistakes happen. Even the best leaders make mistakes. Accepting that mistakes happen, and awarding yourself patience when they do, is necessary. It’s OK to ask for advice from colleagues or for assistance in making decisions – especially when challenging situations arise or you’re unsure of the best solution to a problem.

  2. Seek meaningful feedback from fellow leaders. Asking for feedback on how you are leading is insightful, but it can’t come in the form of a quick question, like “How am I doing?” or “What can I do better?” at the end of the meeting. That approach catches people off guard and doesn’t offer adequate time for them to prepare a thoughtful response. Instead, express that you would welcome feedback on what you can do better as a leader. Give them a few days to think on it, then circle back. It’s also important to ask for feedback from your leader or leaders who have walked in your same shoes.

  3. Figure out the balance. All leaders need to disconnect to ensure balance of work life with home life. Burnout is real. To be your best, you need to be at your best.

  4. Venture out of the comfort zone. Today’s leaders can’t rely on what they’ve always known or done to get ahead. Embrace the passing of the baton. Growing in leadership means you won’t always be the resident expert on the topics of your past. You need to become the go-to source on the topics of your present and future. (Hint: have a good succession plan in place.)

  5. Know that you won’t have all the answers. Just because someone is a leader doesn’t mean they have all the answers. Remain confident in yourself and take the time needed to think on every situation.

  6. Slow down. There’s no benefit in rushing decisions. Healthcare is fast-paced and leaders often get caught up in many things at once. Decisions and input will always be better when leaders pause, think and reflect before moving forward. My new mantra is, “Leadership isn’t a race to make the fastest decisions. It’s a responsibility to make the wisest decisions.”

  7. Give support in different ways. Not everyone wants their problems solved. Sometimes people just need leaders to listen. After listening, ask what you can offer or how you can help. Do they want input? Would they like other problem-solving considerations?

  8. Read or listen to podcasts. I have several go-to sources in my daily reading list, including Modern Healthcare, Becker’s Hospital Review and Harvard Business Review. I also follow various podcasts on nursing, women in medicine and more. Fellow colleagues and mentors also continually send me interesting articles, and I participate in a weekly book club and aim to read non-healthcare or non-nursing news or information daily.


Recognize your success

Being a leader in healthcare is hard right now, but it’s also exciting. Remember to recognize all that you are doing – and doing well. Fill the days with positivity, filter out the things that are more hurtful than helpful, and continue to embrace the opportunity you’ve been given.


Related Articles

Caregivers having a discussion on a unit
Restoring a Unit-Based Shared Governance Committee

Nurses set goals for rebuilding a committee that waned during the pandemic

Nursing Leader Attentiveness (Podcast)

By listening closely and responding authentically, leaders can create an environment where nurses feel valued

Building Great Nursing Teams (Podcast)

Communication and self-reflection key to world-class patient care

Stepping Up: Deciding if a Nurse Leadership Position Is Right for You (Podcast)

Nurse leaders play a pivotal role in employee engagement, quality, safety – and, yes, patient care

Hardships, Triumphs of Nurse Pioneers Profiled in New Children’s Book

Text highlights historic contributions to research, education and clinical care

Reflections on My First Year as CNO

Insights and advice from a nursing leader

Vintage nursing photo
The Evolution of Nurses as Leaders of Patient Care

A new age in practice, physician partnerships and more