follow, or get out of the way. Okay, so maybe that is a little harsh.
But when you think of the three options it makes you wonder which one
you are actively involved in. As a nurse are you leading? Are you a
follower? Or are you just going to throw in the towel and get out of
I think the phrase was originally written for those people who
resist leadership and instead of participating in leading, or instead
of supporting their leaders, they try resisting leadership attempts.
So, the message in this phrase is either take on constructive
leadership of your own, support the leader, or get out of the way. In
the past, most nurses either got out of the way or resisted the
leadership. They felt disempowered to be able to provide any
leadership of their own and they didn’t like the current direction that
the leadership was taking them.
It is important to understand that every nurse is a leader. You are
currently leading your patients, their families, and your peers
whenever you work. So let me suggest another paradigm instead of lead,
follow, or get out of the way. That would be to actively lead by
acting on strategies in order to improve healthcare. Actively and
enthusiastically follow by providing your time, energy, and support of
leadership efforts. Or, if you don’t agree with the leadership
efforts, rather than resisting the leadership, lead from where you
You don’t have to have a management position in order to be able to
lead. You can lead by setting an example. You can lead by becoming
the nurse that you want to be. If you actively pursue clinical
excellence and critically analyze your knowledge, skills, and
professional practice and take steps to improve in every area; you will
be leading your peers and yourself toward better patient care and in
this way will be leading from where you are.
Think about your leadership. How are you demonstrating your
leadership to yourself, to your peers, to your patients and their
families and begin to critically analyze how you can develop better
leadership skills in your own life and as an example for those people
that you work with. By doing so, you will become a positive example
and a powerful influence on healthcare and on everyone around you.
David W. Woodruff, MSN, RN, CNS, CEN
President, Ed4Nurses, Inc.