Every career path has opportunities for leadership, including nursing. Several leadership styles exist within the medical field, each filling a specific need. If you plan to expand your leadership opportunities by earning a graduate degree, understanding these styles will help you choose the best path.
How to learn your leadership style
Much of your natural leadership style will show in your personality traits. Looking at the dominant characteristics of your personality can allow you to determine which type you lean toward. Personality traits indicate your strongest areas. You can use these criteria to narrow down how you might perform in a nursing leadership role.
A second measure of leadership potential is your values. Our values often direct decisions, particularly when judging the performance of others and deciding on how to deal with a situation. Values must include truthfulness, courage, authenticity, and integrity.
The third measure of understanding your leadership style is to consider areas where you are weak. Being honest about our weaknesses strengthens those elements of our personality.
A fourth way to define a leader is someone who seeks constructive feedback to learn and become a more effective, relatable manager. The fifth criterion is observing leaders you respect. Think about qualities that make them good leaders and strive to emulate those.
Finally, assess how you delegate tasks to others. If you have a controlling nature and have difficulty distributing tasks to others but instead try to do them all yourself, this is an area you should work to improve.
Leadership styles utilized in nursing
Once you understand the personality traits that describe your natural responses, you can see which styles exemplify nursing leaders.
A common leadership style is autocratic. This leader is good at delegating tasks, seeks little input from others, and gives clear directions. While the authoritarian leader is great in emergencies, they are frequently not inclined toward open communication or fostering camaraderie among the team.
A democratic leader has a collaborative style, encouraging feedback and involvement. The focus is on the success of the team. A democratic leader is exceptional in performance and quality improvement processes but is not typically able to make quick decisions. They tend to seek input from reliable sources and take more time to make big decisions.
A hands-off leadership style provides little concrete direction, preferring to encourage creativity and ingenuity. This leadership style works best when several highly skilled nurses need little intervention. The downside of a hands-off leader is that they don’t provide much instruction, which causes frustration among new nurses with little to no experience.
The innovative leadership style is at the forefront of what hospitals and medical facilities seek. This nurse leader is a great mentor, builds confidence among the team, and encourages teamwork. Recent studies of visionary leaders showed that patient care errors were reduced as this leader made engaged and responsive nursing teams.
Most visionary leaders do best in upper-level decision-making, where they are not making day-to-day nursing decisions but are focused on effecting changes that improve the job of nursing and the patient experience. This type of leader has the qualities to take nursing successfully into the future.
A flexible leader modifies their leadership based on the unique needs of the specific nurse or situation. This is the most adaptable leadership style, doing well since the nature of nursing is that each day differs from the last. While flexible leaders work well in a teaching environment, they can sometimes diverge from the overall goals they are to achieve.
A servant leader focuses on the needs of the nurses and ensures they have the resources they need to perform well. This leadership style works well in employee development. Servant leaders are excellent in teaching and mentoring roles because they are patient and empathetic. The downside of this style is that they can put the team’s needs over individual needs, sometimes causing frustration among individual nurses.
The transactional leader uses rewards and punishments to supervise, organize, and assess performance objectives. Organizational efficiency is more important than morale.
Transactional leaders are excellent problem-solvers who reduce errors and use evidence-based care well. They are great at working under tight deadlines and in emergencies but don’t inspire camaraderie or team building among staff.
Qualities of an exemplary nurse leader
Earning an advanced graduate degree, such as with the programs offered by Baylor University online, will provide the optimal pathway to the highest level of nursing. As you work towards your nursing degree, there are characteristics you can incorporate when progressing toward a leadership position.
Integrity is crucial for nursing leaders. Integrity is essential, from inspiring trust among your subordinates to being empathetic to their challenges. Active listening is another characteristic that great leaders use to collaborate on changes that improve the nursing field.
Active listening also improves the patient experience, which is always a goal of any medical facility. By maintaining open communication among nurses, nurse leaders, and patients, you can work to make a difference in multiple lives.
Critical thinking in nursing is a trait that allows you to make decisions based on information for the good of all. Thinking critically can let you sift through the unimportant to focus on crucial details.
Nursing is a high calling that requires professionalism in stressful circumstances. Nurse leaders should demonstrate professionalism in daily interactions with nurses, staff, patients, and their families.
Earning a nurse leader degree can open many doors to further your career. Understanding your leadership style can help you find the high-level nursing path where you can make the most difference in healthcare.