Leadership comprises many qualities and definitions making it complex to define (Grimm, 2010). One acceptable definition of leadership is that it involves identifying goals, motivating others, providing support and direction to others to achieve a common goal. In clinical practice, leadership provides direct clinical care while continuously influencing others to improve on the quality of care that they provide.
There are numerous leadership theories as there are academic disciplines. This paper will classify leadership theories into four core categories. These are trait theories, behavioral theories, contingency theories, and lastly, power and influence theories. Trait theories examine what type of persons make good leaders. They operate on the premise that effective leaders share common personality traits such as assertiveness, charisma, decisiveness, empathy, and integrity (Grimm, 2010). Behavioral theories examine how leaders behave. Kurt Lewin developed a framework for identifying leaders based on their behavior in the 1930s that is applicable to date. These are autocratic leaders, democratic leaders and Laissez-faire leaders. Contingency theories base their assumptions on how situations influence good leadership. These theories attempt to predict what leadership style would be appropriate under different circumstances. Lastly, power and influence theories are based on the different approaches leaders employ in acquiring, consolidating, and using power and influence. The transactional leadership style is a classic example of how leaders use power to reward and punish their followers (Grimm, 2010).
Leadership improvement and change management
Healthcare professionals provide essential services to people in various healthcare settings. Nurses are an essential workforce in healthcare provision because they provide critical care and assistance to patients. It is therefore imperative that nurse leaders adopt a servant leadership style where they lead by example. Robert Greenleaf defined servant leaders as individuals who motivate and influence others by developing skills and building relationships among their team members. A servant leaders seeks to address the needs of individual team members, therefore, all team members contribute to decision making (Walton, 2012). Servant leaders possess characteristics such as acceptance, awareness, commitment to growth, foresight, listening, and persuasion.
An equally effective leadership style is transformational leadership. A transformational leader have the ability to translate an organizations mission and vision into achievable goals (Walton, 2012). They build their teams by inspiring members to go beyond the call of duty. Transformational leaders engage their followers on a personal level by building their self-esteem and sense of self-worth. They also act as mentors because they encourage their team members to take up leadership positions. Empowered followers have higher levels of job satisfaction, motivation, stamina, and employer loyalty (Walton, 2012).
The last recommendation for empowering nurses and improving followership is situational leadership. Healthcare institutions face constant, therefore leaders should guide their employees to navigate these changes successfully without jeopardizing service delivery. The emergency room is particularly full of unique circumstances that required different leadership approaches. On a day with many casualty patients, an authoritative leader would be most appropriate while a transformational leader could motivate the team on a slow day. A situational leaders biggest strength is their flexibility to situation and their ability to influence the performance of their team to match the performance requirements of new circumstances (Walton, 2012).
Change is an inevitable occurrence in any organization. Changes in healthcare are critical because they involve matters of life and death. The emergency room is particularly sensitive because doctors, nurses and all staff must work as an efficient team to save lives. Individual team members must be competent and individuals and as part of a team working in a fast paced environment. The self-cognitive theory of change acknowledges that individuals can learn from direct human interaction through the dialogue and experiences they share. This theory proposes that behavioral change is influenced by personal attributes, personal biases, and environmental influences (Crevani, Lindreg & Packendorff, 2010).
Leaders can utilize the social cognitive learning theory to create a self-efficacy framework for change management. Self-efficacy empowers individual employees to believe in their capacity adopt to change (Crevani, Lindreg & Packendorff, 2010). Self-efficacy is a critical quality for determining a persons propensity to change without resisting change. Leaders can increase self-efficacy by providing clear instructions, providing opportunities for skill training and development and lastly, modeling the desired behavior through incentives and recognition (Crevani, Lindreg & Packendorff, 2010).
Grimm, J.W. (2010) Effective leadership: making the difference. Journal of Emergency Nursing. 36, 1, 74-77.
Walton, D. (2012). Introducing Emotional Intelligence. A Practical Guide. Icon Books Ltd, London.
Crevani, L., Lindgren, M., Packendorff, J. (2010). Leadership, not leaders: on the study of leadership as practices and interaction. Scandinavian Journal of Management. 26, 1, 77-86.
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