Know Your Leader

Tawanda Austin, MSN, RN, NE-BC

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Compiled by John Brieske, Pulse managing editor. Do you work with someone who’s an exceptional leader? If so, please send email to

Current job: Specialty director, Surgical Services, Emory University Hospital

Family: "I'm single with no children, but I have a very tight-knit family and a close circle of friends that I enjoy spending time with."

What makes a good leader? "I firmly believe that mastering what are often referred to as 'soft skills' sets a strong foundation for a good leader. A good leader values, builds and maintains positive working relationships, has great emotional intelligence, and tolerates and embraces the differences amongst the people they work with.
"Finally, I believe a good leader needs to have the ability to maintain optimism in the face of adversity and still be able to motivate his or her team."

What are you most proud of in your career? "There are many things, but very broadly, I have to say I'm simply proud to have chosen to be a part of the nursing profession. Nursing is hard work, but it's also rewarding and fulfilling work.
"I'm proud to be a part of an organization and nursing team that promotes delivering care that's patient- and family-centered. At Emory, we support building mutually beneficial partnerships with our patients and their families — making decisions and planning with them, not for them. When I receive letters of gratitude from patients and their families, I'm extremely proud to be a nurse. These moments have been some of the most meaningful for me in my career."

Who has inspired or mentored you? "My mother is one of the most inspirational women I know. She was a hard-working, single mother who overcame many challenges. Looking back on all those years, I'm in absolute awe at how poised she was in creating an environment that was not only stable, but also loving and valuable."

What's your favorite thing to do away from work? "I love to go to the movies and spend time with my family and friends. I also enjoy working out, although I do sometimes have a love/hate relationship with exercising."

Who's your favorite fictional nurse? Why? "All of the nurses on 'House' because they somehow figured out a way to compel the doctors to help them with their duties. The physicians and residents start IVs, assist patients out of bed and transport the patients to procedures — not a bad setup."

What's your favorite guilty pleasure? "Anything and all things dealing with food. Food, food, food… did I say food? I not only love to eat food, but I love to cook and learn about food.
"One of my favorite TV shows is 'Top Chef,' a reality show that features chefs competing with each other to win culinary challenges. Although I could never create the dishes the top chefs create, I enjoy experimenting with many of the ingredients, herbs and spices they cook with."

Tell us something that nobody at work knows about you: "That I'm a twin."