Community and student demand for relevant nursing leadership graduate programs provided the impetus for this study. The aims were to identify components of highly competent nursing leadership, and strategies to integrate those components into education and practice.Nursing leaders gathered in five focus groups. A semi-structured interview guide was used to elicit narratives about nursing leadership. Interpretive analysis proceeded from identification of themes to uncovering of paradigm cases. Essential nursing leadership competencies comprised communication skills such as listening, conflict resolution, the ability to communicate a vision, motivate, and inspire. Additionally, leaders needed technological adroitness, fiscal dexterity, and the courage to be proactive during rapid change. Implications included a revision in the leadership focus of the nursing masters program, and the necessity that nurse retention should be enhanced by better educated nurse leaders who are grounded in practice and ready to provide a vision for the future.
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