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Nurse managers play a vital role in the healthcare system. Their leadership efforts can affect all aspects of a the profession, including job satisfaction, employee retention, staff performance and patient outcomes. Some managers are effective at helping to bolster morale, promote productivity and improve the quality of care. The actions of other leaders, on the other hand, can demoralize staff, reduce efficiency and ultimately lead to oversights on the floor, which could endanger the health of patients.
The management style known as servant leadership generally puts people first. Servant leaders are often hands-on. They ask opinions of staff, solve employee problems and develop team members on a professional level. Employees quickly come to trust these leaders, as they have the team's best interest at heart, according to the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination. At the same time, servant leaders never lose sight of the ultimate purpose of the profession -- serving patients. Successful servant leaders balance the professional development of the team with managing a staff that provides quality care.
Similar to servant leaders, affiliative leaders also put people first. Their managerial style can improve morale and rebuild lost trust among nursing staff, says the "RN Journal." They value timeliness of tasks and employee satisfaction. While by and large effective leaders, affiliative nurse managers do have a few shortcomings. Because they don’t want to anger their subordinates, they may not always correct behaviors when necessary. They may also not critique staff out of concern that the feedback will come off as criticism.
Transformational leaders in nursing often lead by example. They “walk the talk,” inspiring nurses and technicians to be the best they can be. Yet inspiration isn’t their only tool. Transformational leaders are also great communicators and motivators. They not only share their visions for improving hospital policies and procedures with staff, they also encourage their teams to seek out every opportunity for professional development, such as certifications in a nursing specialty. No question is left unanswered about an employee’s value or role in the organization. They stress innovation and enable staff to work independently.
Democratic leaders share many of the same traits as transformational and servant leaders. They place a high value on communication and professional development. They believe that constructive feedback can improve the care provided to patients and that team members should be held accountable for their actions. But they also encourage a great deal of participation from staff in the decision-making process. They want to understand the wants and needs of employees before making changes to hospital policies and procedures that will ultimately affect work life.
Authoritative leaders essentially rule with an iron fist. They make decisions without consulting staff and expect unquestioning compliance. They may even withhold vital information from their team, even if it affects staff duties. Like the other leaderships styles, authoritarian leaders — as they’re sometimes called — also try to develop employees. But rather than using constructive feedback, they use punishment and negative reinforcement to change behaviors. However, authoritative leaders aren’t without merit. They’re often well-suited to manage emergency rooms, as they act and make decisions quickly.
- American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination: Nursing Leadership – Management & Leadership Styles
- Lippincott’s Nursing Center: Are You a Transformational Leader?
- Emerging RN Leader: Servant Leadership in Nursing
- RN Journal: Clinical Nurse Leadership and Performance Improvement on Surgical Unit
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.