In any organization, leadership plays a crucial role in its success. At the top of any business, government sector, or community, we see leaders who direct everyone to attain a common goal. This applies to nursing as well.
Nurse leadership includes those seasoned and well-trained nurses who represent the interests of all nurses, advocate for their profession, and are responsible for resource allocation. In a healthcare organization, nurse leaders ensure quality care for patients, develop new treatment strategies, and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.
The importance of leadership in nursing became much more evident during the Covid-19 pandemic because hospitals needed an organized, efficient, and immediate response to the increased demand for healthcare.
The crisis pushed nurse leaders to improve their management and adopt better leadership styles. We will be discussing the various leadership styles in a while, but before that, here is how you can pursue a leadership role in nursing.
To progress to the position of a nurse leader, you need to adopt certain traits, including assertiveness, team-working skills, preparedness, and confidence. Your path begins with an offer to become the in-charge nurse. However, this role requires a greater skill set and allocates more responsibility. Thereafter, to enhance your leadership ability, you can take additional courses, get certified in leadership and management, and complete Your MSN in Nursing Degree. All MSN courses train registered nurses in skills needed to take up leadership roles.
4. Leadership styles in nursing
1. Autocratic leadership
Autocratic leadership is where the leader has all the decision-making power, and the team members may or may not give input but have no say in the executive decisions. So the nurse leader issues the commands that the nurses must follow without objection.
It adopts a top-down approach where all orders from the top of the hierarchy are followed by the team members. The leaders have to be quick-on-their-feet, fast thinkers, and good problem solvers because almost all decision-making rests on them. In most cases, the leader can issue penalties if a nurse makes a mistake and has little tolerance for disobedience. As ‘dictatorship-like’ as it sounds, some benefits are as follows:
- In emergencies, such leadership is efficient and organized
- It enables quick decision making
- All team members have clear-cut roles that they are expected to follow, and there would be little confusion.
- With one person in charge, there is little conflict, and the team stays cohesive
- Nurses do not get to express their creativity. Hence, decisions might lack innovation
- There is no diversity since only the nurse leader has complete authority
- The nurses are likely to be dissatisfied by their lack of participation. One study showed that around 63% of the respondents did not like being told exactly how to perform tasks by their leaders.
- There is a lack of open communication and trust between the members because there is no real collective effort towards a common goal
2. Laissez-faire leadership
On quite the opposite end of the spectrum to autocratic leadership is the laissez-faire style. Here the nurse leader has a completely hands-off approach. There is little supervision by the leader, and the members have all the decision-making power.
The leaders are only responsible for providing the necessary resources. These nurse leaders are often completely uninvolved in the daily work at the organization. New and inexperienced nurse leaders often adopt this style because they lack self-confidence. Alternatively, such leadership might be consciously applicable in those healthcare environments where all nurses are highly skilled, independent, and confident.
- Since the nurses have free reign, everyone can voice their ideas, bringing creativity to the table.
- Nurses have independence and decision-making encouraging personal growth
- With the lack of authoritative control, there is little fear of errors and greater room to learn through experimentation
- Team members are cooperative and come to trust each other
- This leadership might lower productivity by slowing the decision-making process
- Nurses might be unclear about their roles
- If the team members are not highly-skilled, it will result in poor decisions and reduced efficiency
- Without someone in control, conflict resolution becomes difficult. Research has shown Laissez-Faire leadership to be linked to low job satisfaction, and team members of such leaders are often dissatisfied with their supervisors.
3. Democratic leadership
Also called participative leadership, this leadership style encourages team participation and collaboration. The nurse leaders are actively involved rather than absent from the picture.
They keep watch on team progress, provide genuine feedback, and encourage individual responsibility and accountability but without strict repercussions. Such nurse leaders encourage input from the nurses, take opinions, and hear their concerns. This leadership style effectively develops strong positive relationships between the nurse leader and their team.
- Democratic leaders make team members feel valued and respected
- Team involvement encourages creativity and brings diversity to the table
- It encourages transparency and honesty with the team leader because there is a feeling of trust. The lack of punishment also contributes to this
- Team members are highly satisfied
- Democratic leadership can discourage leaders from taking immediate action when needed. This leadership is not effective in emergencies
- Despite team collaboration, members might not reach a consensus, and the leader then has to make the final decision. The time spent discussing opinions goes to waste, and the members are dissatisfied.
- The nurse leader often lacks experience in making independent decisions and becomes dependent on the team.
4. Servant leadership
As the name suggests, servant leaders work to serve their team by helping them polish their skills. Such leaders pay attention to the individual strengths and weaknesses of the nurses and work towards enhancing their abilities. These leaders adopt a serve-first approach.
- Encourages better performance and personal growth of the team members
- Inspires the team’s trust in the leader
- Servant leaders quickly get exhausted by the constant effort they have to put in
- These leaders might be perceived as weak and lose control
- A long-term effort is needed to see positive outcomes
Leadership styles in nursing have a major impact on the team’s overall efficiency. Nurse leaders are crucial in directing the nurses in an organization towards success. If you are working to become a nurse leader, remember how important your role is.
The type of leadership style you adopt will be very important, so think wisely and decide your approach after carefully considering the dynamics of your team and organization.