The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) continues to guide and influence nursing leadership practice and leadership development. An important component of leadership development is defining the content and scope of desired and necessary leadership competencies. Leadership competencies represent the knowledge, skills, and abilities contributing to effective leadership. Competencies are used as a framework to facilitate the growth of the nurse leader and to assess progression and mastery. They reflect what leaders need to be able to do in their roles, how they treat and interact with others, and what tools they can draw from to be an effective leader.
AONL published the first set of Nurse Executive Competencies in 2005,
1followed with the Nurse Manager Skills Inventory in 2004 (later renamed the Nurse Manager Competencies in 2014).
AONE, AONL. AONL Nurse Executive Competencies. 2015.
2Subsequent work recognized some of the role-specific expectations with the publication of the System Chief Nurse Executive Competencies in 2011,
AONE, AONL. AONL Nurse Manager Competencies. 2015.
3Post-Acute Care Competencies in 2015,
- Meadows M.T.
New competencies for system chief nurse executives.
J Nurs Adm. 2016; 46: 235-237
4and Population Health in 2015.
- Meadows M.T.
- Dwyer C.
AONE continues to guide leadership expertise with post-acute competencies.
Nurse Leader. 2015; 13: 21-25
5Nurse leaders can best prepare to face both current and future challenges by learning, experiencing, and mastering explicit leadership competencies.
- Carlson E.
- Kline M.
- Zangerle C.M.
AONE competencies: preparing nurse executives to lead population health.
Nurse Leader. 2016; 14: 108-112
Defining Leadership Competencies
Given the evolution and transformation of the health care landscape, AONL recognized in support of its mission to “transform health care through expert and influential nursing leadership” and vision “nursing leadership, one voice advancing health,” the need to frame leadership competencies around 1 defined set of core competencies to encompass and guide the practice of traditional, new, and emerging leadership roles. The resulting core competencies represent an integration of the existing competencies and the differentiation between core/foundational and functional competencies. These core competencies represent a distillation of leadership competencies individually assessable (i.e., measurable) and broad enough to be essential across the care continuum and at all levels of nursing leadership.
Subject matter experts reviewed each of AONL’s 5 sets of functional leadership competencies. Working within the established domains, they developed high-impact, core nursing leadership competencies that define a common language for all nurse leaders. The 6 nursing leadership domains (Table 1) encompass the depth and breadth of the nursing leadership specialty, across health care settings and leadership roles. Five of these domains (i.e., Communication and Relationship Building, Leadership, Knowledge of the Health Care Environment and Clinical Principles, Professionalism, and Business Skills and Principles) represent the original framework found in the current role-specific functional competencies. The sixth competency, Leader Within, was drawn from the AONL Nurse Manager Competencies, recognizing the influence and significance of experience and intrinsic motivation and understanding oneself is an essential part in becoming an effective leader.
Table 1Domains Within the Nursing Leadership Competencies
|AONL Leadership Domain||AONL Nursing Leadership Competencies||AONL Nurse Executive Competencies||AONL System CNE Competencies||AONL Post-Acute Care Competencies||AONL Nurse Manager Competencies||AONL Nurse Executive Competencies: Population Health|
|Communication and Relationship Building|
|Knowledge of the Health Care Environment and Clinical Principles|
|Business Skills and Principles|
The 6 competency domains in the AONL Nurse Leader Core Competencies, approved by the AONL Board of Directors, are interrelated, provide a guide for personal development and assessment, and apply to the various levels and types of nursing leadership.
The AONL Nurse Leader Core Competencies (Figure 1) are concise, encompassing the effective actions all nurse leaders need to lead others, develop and refine the work environment, improve themselves and those around them, and achieve organizational goals. Additionally, AONL Nurse Leader Core Competencies provide the tools and resources for AONL’s strategic relationships—practice, academia, and industry.
Using The Competencies
Because the competencies are considered core leadership competencies, they should be translatable and inherent to nursing leadership roles across the continuum. The AONL Nurse Leader Core Competencies can be used as a framework and common communication platform for all nursing organizations and nursing educational programs to define the scope and standards for nurse leadership. All nurse leaders can use this key resource to personally assess the progression and mastery of each of the competencies as part of their leadership journey. These competencies can be expanded upon with functional competencies (when applicable) and tasks within organizations, as well as integrated into educational curriculums to prepare and further develop nurse leaders.
- AONE, AONL. AONL Nurse Executive Competencies. 2015.(Available at:)
- AONE, AONL. AONL Nurse Manager Competencies. 2015.(Available at:)
- New competencies for system chief nurse executives.J Nurs Adm. 2016; 46: 235-237
- AONE continues to guide leadership expertise with post-acute competencies.Nurse Leader. 2015; 13: 21-25
- AONE competencies: preparing nurse executives to lead population health.Nurse Leader. 2016; 14: 108-112
Ronda Hughes, PhD, MHS, RN, FAAN, is AONL senior director of professional practice in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at [email protected] M.T. Meadows, DNP, MBA, CENP, is a consultant and former director of professional practice at AONL, Chicago, Illinois. Robyn Begley, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, is AONL CEO and American Hospital Association chief nursing officer and vice president of workforce in Chicago, Illinois.
2022 American Organization for Nursing Leadership. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.