Leadership Traits & Styles in Modern Health Care Organizations
In the context of leadership traits, Whitehead, Weiss and Tappen (2010) employ the trait theories to show that effective nursing leaders must demonstrate management of attention (capacity to communicate to followers a sense of goal or direction), management of meaning (capacity to create and communicate meaning with clarity and purpose), management of trust (capacity to demonstrate reliability, dependency and consistency), and management of self (capacity to understand self and work within own strengths and weaknesses). Other traits include capacity to remain calm under pressure, fairness, integrity, courage, positive attitude, initiative, optimism, perseverance and self-awareness.
In leadership styles, Cummings et al (2010) note that “commonly used leadership theories including transformational leadership and more recently, emotionally intelligent leadership have guided nursing leadership research and interventions, presumably due to their emphasis on relationships as the foundation for effecting positive change or outcomes” (P. 364). These authors argue that transformational leadership uses idealized influence, inspiration and motivation, cognitive stimulation and individualized consideration to motivate followers to do more than they initially intended and often more than they thought is possible.
Whitehead et al (2010) employ behavioral theories to classify leadership styles in terms of controlling leadership (leader gives orders and is in charge of the group), democratic leadership (leader shares leadership with followers), and Laissez-Faire leadership (leader does very little planning or decision making and fails to encourage others to do so). The best leadership styles for nursing leaders are transformational leadership and democratic leadership since there are more flexible and normally increase motivation, innovation and creativity among followers (Cummings et al., 2010).
Formal & Informal Power in Leadership
Whitehead et al (2010) define power as “the ability to influence other people despite their resistance” (p. 64). Formal power is grounded on an individual’s position in the organization and the authority associated with that position, whereas informal power originates from the relationships an individual may create and the respect he or she earns from coworkers in work-related contexts. Nurse leaders exercise formal power by virtue of their position and authority, but they may also exercise informal power by virtue of being sought out by the head nurse for ideas and personal expertise about ward management issues (Ellefsen, Ellefsen & Hamilton, 2000).
Political Action Awareness
Political action awareness is extremely important because it provides an avenue by which nurse leaders, through their professional organizations such as the American Nursing Association (ANA), can influence the arena of policy and political decision-making especially in areas that affect the welfare of nurses and patients. Professional organizations provide nurse leaders with a collective voice thorough which to make their viewpoints acknowledged and their values recognized (Whitehead et al., 2010). Indeed, these authors further postulate that “the power base of nursing professional organizations is derived from the number of members and their expertise in health matters” (p. 67). Political agencies dealing with health-related issues often have to consult these professional organizations while making political decisions or policies that directly or indirectly impact the nursing profession. Consequently, nurse leaders remain aware of political actions and indeed have a substantial influence over how these decisions or policies are implemented by virtue of the power vested in these organizations. More importantly, these organizations allow greater coordination among nurses and their nurse leaders to ensure that the nursing profession is enthusiastically supported in not only influencing but also shaping health care decisions and policy.
Cummings, G.G., Macgregor, T., Davey, M., Lee, H., Wong, C.A., Lo, E…Stafford, E. (2010). Leadership styles and outcome patterns for the nursing workforce and work environment: A systematic review. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 47, 363-385.
Ellefsen, B., Ellefsen, B., & Hamilton, G. (2000). Empowered nurses: Nurses in Norway and the USA compared. International Nursing Review, 47, 106-120.
Whitehead, D.K., Weiss, S.A., & Tappen, R.M. (2010). Essentials of nursing leadership and management (5th ed.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company