Compassionate Leadership Practice through Diversity & Inclusion

Compassionate Leadership Practice through Diversity & Inclusion


Jane Fitzsimmons, MSN, RN, Executive Vice President, Executive Search Services
Ena Williams, MBA, RN, CENP, Nurse Executive & DEI Researcher
Joy Parchment, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, Nurse Executive & AONL Committee on DEI

Based on a panel discussion moderated by Bonnie Barnes, FAAN, The DAISY Foundation.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are not something that happens overnight, but rather, is a journey. There is a process that goes along with it; both understanding what the problem is by listening to your teams on the ground and responding by creating systematic changes.


What Does it Mean to be Compassionate?


Compassion is an emotional skill and consideration for the feelings of others—an expression of humanity. It really doesn’t mean that you’re weak, in fact, there is incredible strength in being a compassionate leader. When I think about the compassionate leader, I think about someone who understands or tries to understand the feelings of others, their experiences and their challenges. It’s also about relationships, whether fleeting or life-long.” –Ena Williams, MBA, RN, CENP


How Does Middle Management Address DEI?


“Managers shape the environment at the point of care. As such, it is up to them to create a culture within their departments that shows compassion to the patients that they serve.” —Jane Fitzsimmons, MSN, RN

Ask yourself, do you surround yourself with individuals who have a diversity of thought, ideas, and values? 


Ways to Move Beyond the Middle Manager Plateau


  1. Engage a professional organization.
  2. Join a committee or task force.
  3. Sit down and listen to people’s stories.  Build your network.
  4. Ask for feedback if you are not selected for a position.
  5. Form a relationship with a search executive to understand the marketplace for your skills.


How Does an Organization Compassionately Lead a Diverse & Inclusive Workforce?


“Organizations must think about the structure and environment in which they operate. We know there are structural things put in place over many, many years that have created inequity and resulted in exclusion. It’s important to identify what those structures are. Some of them could be hiring structures, recruiting structures, promotional structures, and developmental structures.” –Joy Parchment, PhD, RN, NEA-BC

  1. Identify structures that create inequity.
  2. Encourage leadership to share their experiences.
  3. Create a safe environment that is conducive to DEI discussions.
  4. Build a DEI task force to examine internal practices, structures, and components.
  5. Establish new and modify existing processes.
  6. Lean in and measure outcomes.
  7. Recognize that DEI is a journey, not an overnight transformation.


Actionable Steps Senior Leaders Can Take in the DEI Journey


  1. Hire staff that not only reflects the patient population but the community that they are serving.
  2. Offer developmental opportunities to a more diverse pool.
  3. Make criteria for promotion or appointments objective and measurable. 
  4. Provide feedback to final candidates who were not selected.
  5. Implement a sponsorship program designed to move a person forward in their career.

Examples of this include:

  • Co-author an article with the protegee.
  • Involve the protegee in a research project.
  • Bring the protegee to an executive forum.


Pearls of Wisdom for New Senior Nurse Leaders


“Senior leaders should consider sponsoring mid-level leaders with the qualifications, interest, and ability to move up in their careers. Sponsors can open doors and advocate on behalf of the protegee to help move that person to the next rung within the organization.” –Jane Fitzsimmons, MSN, RN

“Those who have the power need to lead the way. That means creating an environment where people can really feel a sense of belonging no matter where they come from or their background. Nurses are also practice leaders. We use evidence to decide what our next response needs to be. There’s tremendous evidence on this topic. There is tremendous evidence that more work needs to be done. Using those same evidence-based principles and how you integrate evidence-based practices into the environment is another framework you can use to address this.” –Ena Williams, MBA, RN, CENP

“Sit down and listen to people’s stories who are different than you, who share a different perspective. If I know your story, I’m not going to be your enemy. I will be your friend. I am not going to fear you if I understand you and your story.” –Joy Parchment, PhD, RN, NEA-BC

Kirby Bates Associates drives healthcare organizations to achieve high-quality, cost-effective patient care through our comprehensive portfolio of proven leadership services, including Executive Search, Interim Leadership, and Executive Advisory Services. As successful healthcare executives, our effective and inclusive approaches deliver sustainable solutions for our clients’ greatest leadership challenges. Contact us today to discuss our comprehensive services.