From ‘eating their young’ to stepping up as leaders who nurture.


From ‘eating their young’ to stepping up as leaders who nurture.

From ‘eating their young’ to stepping up as leaders who nurture.
12 Ways to Lead by Example


Nurses Eat Their Young, a culture that needs to change.

As a registered nurse for over 30 years and working in many different hospitals and organisations, I have met hundreds and hundreds of health professionals that make up this huge workforce.

Throughout my long career, there’s been a saying that represents a culture in nursing that is sad, disappointing and needs to change.

It is this metaphor, that ‘nurses eat their young’ or ‘nurse cannibalism’, a term recently coined by Emma Versluis and Tracy Churchill. That’s pretty confronting hey?

To hear more about this I recommend The Happy Nurse Podcast

Not just a problem in nursing

According to Renee Thompson an expert on incivility in nursing, this is not just a problem in nursing but in many occupations including medicine, the police force and teaching.

It may be commonplace in many professions, but that doesn’t make it okay. And it feels even worse in an industry that is dedicated to caring and compassion

Renee Thompson

I experienced this myself

In my career, I have experienced this attitude of nurse cannibalism and witnessed it occurring to others. And I still hear many troubling accounts from junior and novice nurses.

Although junior nurses are the most often targeted, experienced nurses, do come up against this too. This may occur when they take on a new role in a different speciality, for instance moving from orthopaedics into the operating theatre or coming from another hospital or organisation.

Not ok to not speak up

What has come to light through Black Lives Matter is that it is no longer ok to not speak up when things are not right.

That’s because being present and witnessing something not right and not objecting to it, is equal to condoning the wrongful behaviour. Now I don’t think it’s easy to do but it is important.

Although we worry about what to say and we are scared of being criticised people will criticise you anyway so it’s better to speak up and speak your truth.

We must lead by example 

To make these needed changes in our workplaces, we need to lead by example. It’s not enough to rely on others to do it first and don’t fall into the trap of following along with the cultural ‘norm’ of the workplace.

Be the first, and be proud of how you conduct yourself. This can be as simple as being the one who seeks out another’s eyes and smiles genuinely, is inclusive, asks what you can do to help, and says thank you. 

We are leaders even if it is not fully recognised or owned yet. If we don’t like the way things are then be the change that we want to see.

Take the lead, you can be the change you wish to see.

So how can you be a good leader?

Good leaders must lead by example. Through their actions, which are aligned with what they say, they become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing but do another, they erode trust, a critical element of productive leadership.

Here are just a few of the ways that we can lead by example

  1. Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members /colleagues on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth.

  2. Be truthful/vulnerable. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really IS the best policy.

  3. Be courageous. Walkthrough fire (a crisis) first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate a commitment to a larger purpose.

  4. Portray confidence. When you are confident in yourself and believe in your team /colleagues, confidence is instilled in others.

  5. Acknowledge failure. It makes it OK for your team to do the same and defines failure as part of the process of becoming extraordinary.

  6. Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team.

  7. Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead, be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team or colleagues for more.

  8. Listen with empathy. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.

  9. Delegate liberally. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their core strengths.

  10. Take care of yourself. Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it, support it!

  11. Celebrate every step of progress. It is important to celebrate all steps of progress and success. Some people feel as though their work is never recognised or valued, they are only spoken to when there is a complaint. We all work better with encouragement rather than criticism.

  12. Be appreciative, give thanks everywhere. People love to be thanked for a job well done, for their effort and commitment. A simple thanks goes a very long way.
A simple thank you goes a very long way.

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Lauren Bell helps nurses, healers and caring professionals who feel burnt out, stuck, angry and silenced to step up, stand out and be valued at the highest level in their field. Passionate for holistic health and wellness – body, mind, and spirit, Lauren delivers high impact transformation with therapy, coaching and workshops to move you forward and live the life you dreamed of; ‘An Extraordinary Life.’ Visit to learn more about Lauren and get your complimentary No Apologies, I Deserve More Toolkit.  

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From ‘eating their young’ to stepping up as leaders who nurture.