A leader can set the entire tone of a workplace. This is true both in cases of poor and excellent leadership however it has never been more evident to me than working as nurse in a rehabilitation facility (Sheahan, Duke & Nugent, 2007). While there I have collaborated with several disciplines and have been able to witness a variety of leadership styles first hand. One of the first people I came into contact with was S.Z. who made a point of showing me where her office was located. She seemed very friendly with the staff and supported meeting every morning for a “huddle.” Those people who were not with patients would get together to talk about the needs of the department of the whole and the best way to manage patient care which is a method that has proven effectiveness (Im, Park & Kim, 2012). S.Z. was open to criticism and welcomed every person’s perspective about the best ways to be successful, including the student. That is not to say that every leader in the department was as effective as the humanistic manager, S.Z. Another woman, R.A., who worked within a different department in the hospital was a very dissimilar example of a leader. Although certainly far from the worst leader, R.A. shows some reasons why it is important to be considerate about how one implements his/her own leadership style while keeping those around them within the context of this decision.
R.A. carried herself boisterously around the hospital. She seemed well liked in her department and spoke openly about spending time outside of work with her co-workers. It was clear she did not object to her co-workers being on the phone at work or openly carrying on private conversations in front of patients and their family. This sort of laissez-faire management was not very effective when it came to managing the facility. Broken equipment was rarely reported and it was difficult to disseminate information about protocol changes or adherence strategies. This made it very difficult for the department as a whole to grow and develop. For R.A. being more of a friend to her staff and less of a leader was not an effective mechanism for success. Ultimately, when difficult decisions needed to be made, R.A. had to relate to an authoritarian leadership style because no one on the staff felt comfortable telling their ‘friend’ what to do (Sheahan, Duke & Nugent, 2007). In one instance, the management at the hospital asked R.A. to dramatically change how the scheduling was done in her department. Rather than asking those on her staff she made the executive decision to change the schedules in accordance with the hospital leadership. Now her staff is unhappy about the changes and feels they are unable to say nothing.
Communication is one of the most important factors linked with leadership. S.Z. used a democratic strategy in which everyone was open to participate in major decisions. Ultimately, she was still a strong and independent leader who made important decisions with the best interest of her staff in mind. This is essential to strong leadership because it promotes a feeling of safety on the part of the staff. R.A. on the other hand did not enhance communication in her leadership. Instead, she had little idea how her employees really felt about their workplace. While it can be nice to hide behind friendship and hear about no problems at work, it is much more efficacious to attack problems head on (Sheahan, Duke & Nugent, 2007). For this to occur, a more democratic or even an affiliative leadership style is in important. In the affiliative style, leaders put the needs of the workers first and while like the democratic style, this has attractive qualities, it is important to remember that in healthcare perhaps fellow employees should not be placed first and foremost. In this sort of setting, this person should always be the patient. Whatever leadership style is ultimately utilized it is of the utmost importance to practice well for the patients.
I believe there is a middle ground between being too controlling of staff and being completely hands off. There is a reason people need leadership to rally around. There has to be a centralized person ensuring that a variety of perspectives are being taken into consideration at all times. However, other perspectives must also be considered. A wide range of goals should be set and adhered to in a rehabilitation facility. This is because there is also a wide range of needs for the patients who are being treated there and staff members can each attack goals for the betterment of patient care when they are clearly defined and agreed upon (Sheahan, Duke & Nugent, 2007). That being said while there are clearly some leadership styles that are more effective than others, every leader must work to adapt these themes to his/her own temperament and personality. I am a person who needs to see the direct benefit between my actions and how they support patient care. For me, transformational leadership may be the key to success. In this form of leadership style, everything is measured in cause and effect (Bowles & Bowles, 2000). This integrates decision making with determining how beneficial that decision is and allows for constant growth and adaptation. Certainly, part of being a student is welcoming these changes into ones life. It is important to reflect on leadership and staff dynamic from a student perspective because the lessons learned will translate to future practices.
- Bowles, A., & Bowles, N. B. (2000). A comparative study of transformational leadership in nursing development units and conventional clinical settings. Journal of Nursing Management, 8(2), 69-76.
- Im, S. I., Park, J., & Kim, H. S. (2012). The effects of nurse’s communication and self-leadership on nursing performance. Korean Journal of Occupational Health Nursing, 21(3), 274-282.
- Sheahan, M., Duke, M., & Nugent, P. (2007). Leadership in nursing. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal, 14(7), 28.