Leadership in Nursing – What Kind of Leader are You?

Leadership in nursing is quite different from leadership in business or other industries. Several leadership models exist that can be used in nursing. As a leader, you must evaluate the leadership skills you possess and build from there to become the ideal nurse leader. When
nurse leaders stick to only one type of leadership model, patient care and the healthcare team
can suffer.

“Not a Leader”
Managers often hear nurses, say “I am not a leader, so I can’t be the charge nurse.” Not all leaders are suitable for charge nurse roles. However, nurses can show leadership skills by teaching other nurses and advocating for patients. Managers and charge nurses use different types of leadership, in various situations.

The five types of leadership include servant, transformational, democratic, authoritarian, and laissez-faire. All have positive and negatives impacts on the nursing team and patients.

Servant Leader
Servant leaders influence and motivate others by building relationships and dividing skills among individual team members.

Positive impacts of servant leadership include:

  • Listening – Through active listening, servant leaders build better patient relationships.
  • Accepting – They are nonjudgmental and accepting

Positive impact for patients include:

  • Helping them to heal – This type of leader can help patients recover by cheering them on as they meet their goals for recovery.
  • Seeking help from all team members – They include nurse aides and ancillary staff as part of the entire patient care team.
  • Feeling secure with trust and confidence – Transformational leaders are trusted by their patients, which can help them feel safe.

Democratic Leader
Democratic leaders foster open communication, allowing staff to take part in decision-making.

Positive impacts for patients include:

  • Opportunity to Provide Feedback- Democratic leaders want to know what the patient thinks of their care. They may even ask the patient directly for feedback.
  • Evaluate processes – After hearing feedback, the democratic leader will go back and evaluate the process to improve issues.

Authoritarian Leader
Authoritarian leaders make decisions without staff input. This leader looks at their knowledge as power to control the team without input.

Negative impacts on patients

  • “I’m better than you” attitude – This can make others feel inferior and interfere with the goals of the staff and the patient.
  • Blame others – They blame others for faults in the plan instead of viewing their leadership style as a problem.

Positive for patients

  • Emergencies – They show their power in emergencies. The authoritarian leader delegates needs to the team during a crisis, keeping the situation less chaotic.

Laissez-faire Leader
The laissez-faire leader has no leadership direction. They don’t have the drive or desire to change the direction they are heading.

Negative impacts for Teams:

  • Avoid confrontation – Laissez-faire leaders avoid confrontation. If a staff member is breaking the rules or causing tension, the laissez-faire leader tends to ignore the problem. Avoiding confrontation can create poor morale in the unit.

Negative impacts on patients:

  • Change won’t happen – They may hear a patient complaint, but don’t create an action plan to change the problem.
  • Appears inexperienced – By being too laid back, the laissez-faire leader appears inexperienced, even when they are not.

Research shows the best type of leader is the transformational leadership model. Though, when
looking at the ideal nurse manager or charge nurse, the best kind of leader possesses a mixture
of all the models. When evaluating your nurse leadership style, see where you stand now and
improve by always being a “work in progress”.

Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB is a freelance writer and owner of WriteRN.net.

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