Distinctive Styles of Leadership

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Distinctive Styles of Leadership

Distinctive Styles of Leadership
Distinctive Styles of Leadership

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Adapted from Buchanan, L. (2012/June). 13 ways of looking at a leader. INC Magazine, 74–76.

employers all expect nurses to be honest, law-abiding, and trustworthy. Adherence to both a code of personal ethics and a code of professional ethics (Appendix 1, American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses) is expected of every nurse. Would-be leaders who do not exhibit these characteristics cannot expect them of their followers. This is an essential component of moral leadership.

■ Courage. Sometimes, being a leader means taking some risks. In the story of Billie Thomas, for example, Billie needed some courage to speak to her nurse manager about a problem she had observed.

■ Positive attitude. A positive attitude goes a long way in making a good leader. In fact, many outstanding leaders cite negative attitude as the single most important reason for not hiring someone (Maxwell, 1993, p. 98). Sometimes a leader’s attitude is noticed by followers more quickly than are the leader’s actions.

■ Initiative. Good ideas are not enough. To be a leader, you must act on those good ideas. No one will make you do this; this requires initiative on your part.

■ Energy. Leadership requires energy. Both leadership and followership are hard but satisfying endeavors that require effort. It

is also important that the energy be used wisely.

■ Optimism. When the work is difficult and one crisis seems to follow another in rapid succession, it is easy to become discouraged. It is important not to let discouragement keep you and your coworkers from seeking ways to resolve the problems. In fact, the ability to see a problem as an opportunity is part of the optimism that makes a person an effective leader. Like energy, optimism is “catching.” Holman (1995) called this being a winner instead of a whiner (Table 1-3).

■ Perseverance. Effective leaders do not give up easily. Instead, they persist, continuing their efforts when others are tempted to stop trying. This persistence often pays off.

■ Generosity. Freely sharing your time, interest, and assistance with your colleagues is a trait of a generous leader. Sharing credit for successes and support when needed are other ways to be a generous leader (Buchanan, 2013; Disch, 2013).

■ Balance. In the effort to become the best nurses they can be, some nurses may forget that other aspects of life are equally important. As important as patients and colleagues are, family and friends are important, too. Although school and work are meaningful activities, cultural, social, recreational, and spiritual activities also have meaning. You need to find a balance between work and play.

■ Ability to handle stress. There is some stress in almost every job. Coping with stress in as positive and healthy a manner as possible helps to conserve energy and can be a model for










Ability to handle stress


Think critically

Solve problems

Communicate skillfully

Set goals, share vision

Develop self and others

Figure 1.1 Keys to effective leadership.

table 1-3

Winner or Whiner—Which Are You? A winner says: A whiner says:

“We have a real challenge here.”

“This is really a problem.”

“I’ll give it my best.” “Do I have to?” “That’s great!” “That’s nice, I guess.” “We can do it!” “That will never succeed.” “Yes!” “Maybe . . .”

Source: Adapted from Holman, L. (1995). Eleven lessons in self- leadership: Insights for personal and professional success. Lexington, Ky.: A Lesson in Leadership Book.

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Rocio Quintana

10 unit 1 ■ Professional Considerations

others. Maintaining balance and handling stress are reviewed in Chapter 11.

■ Self-awareness. How sharp is your emotional intelligence? People who do not understand themselves are limited in their ability to understand people with whom they are working. They are far more likely to fool themselves than are self-aware people. For example, it is much easier to be fair with a coworker you like than with one you do not like. Recognizing that you like some people more than others is the first step in avoiding unfair treatment based on personal likes and dislikes.

Behaviors of an Effective Leader Leadership requires action. The effective leader chooses the action carefully. Important leadership behaviors include setting priorities, thinking criti- cally, solving problems, respecting people, commu- nicating skillfully, communicating a vision for the future, and developing oneself and others.

■ Setting priorities. Whether planning care for a group of patients or creating a strategic plan for an organization, priorities continually shift and demand your attention. As a leader you will need to remember the three E’s of prioritization: evaluate, eliminate, and estimate. Continually evaluate what you need to do, eliminate tasks that someone else can do, and estimate how long your top priorities will take you to complete.

■ Thinking critically. Critical thinking is the careful, deliberate use of reasoned analysis to reach a decision about what to believe or what to do (Feldman, 2002). The essence of critical thinking is a willingness to ask questions and to be open to new ideas or new ways to do things. To avoid falling prey to assumptions and biases of your own or others, ask yourself frequently, “Do I have the information I need? Is it accurate? Am I prejudging a situation?” ( Jackson, Ignatavicius, & Case, 2004).

■ Solving problems. Patient problems, paperwork problems, staff problems: these and others occur frequently and need to be solved. The effective leader helps people identify problems and work through the problem- solving process to find a reasonable solution.

■ Respecting and valuing the individual. Although people have much in common, each individual has different wants and needs and has had different life experiences. For example, some people really value the psychological rewards of helping others; other people are more concerned about earning a decent salary. There is nothing wrong with either of these points of view; they are simply different. The effective leader recognizes these differences in people and helps them find the rewards in their work that mean the most to them.

■ Skillful communication. This includes listening to others, encouraging exchange of information, and providing feedback: 1. Listening to others. Listening is separate

from talking with other people; listening involves both giving and receiving information. The only way to find out people’s individual wants and needs is to watch what they do and to listen to what they say. It is amazing how often leaders fail simply because they did not listen to what other people were trying to tell them.

2. Encouraging exchange of information. Many misunderstandings and mistakes occur because people fail to share enough information with each other. The leader’s role is to make sure that the channels of communication remain open and that people use them.

3. Providing feedback. Everyone needs some information about the effectiveness of their performance. Frequent feedback, both positive and negative, is needed so people can continually improve their performance. Some nurse leaders find it difficult to give negative feedback because they fear that they will upset the other person. How else can the person know where improvement is needed? Negative feedback can be given in a manner that is neither hurtful nor resented by the individual receiving it. In fact, it is often appreciated. Other nurse leaders, however, fail to give positive feedback, assuming that coworkers will know when they are doing a good job. This is also a mistake because everyone appreciates positive feedback. In fact, for some people, it is the most important reward they get from their jobs.

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chapter 1 ■ Leadership and Followership 11 ■ Communicating a vision for the future. The

effective leader has a vision for the future. Communicating this vision to the group and involving everyone in working toward that vision generate the inspiration that keeps people going when things become difficult. Even better, involving people in creating the vision is not only more satisfying for employees but also has the potential to produce the most creative and innovative outcomes (Kerfott, 2000). It is this vision that helps make work meaningful.

■ Developing oneself and others. Learning does not end upon leaving school. In fact, experienced nurses say that school is just the beginning, that school only prepares you to continue learning throughout your career. As new and better ways to care for patients are developed, it is your responsibility as a professional to critically analyze them and decide whether they would be better for your patients than current ones. Effective leaders not only continue to learn but also encourage others to do the same. Sometimes, leaders function as teachers. At other times, their role is primarily to encourage others to seek more knowledge.

Anderson, Manno, O’Connor, and Gallagher (2010) invited five nurse managers from Penn Presbyterian Medical Center who had received top ratings in leadership from their staff to participate in a focus group on successful leadership. They reported that visibility, communication, and the values of respect and empathy were the key elements of successful leadership. The authors quoted participants to illustrate each of these elements (p. 186):

Visibility: “I try to come in on the off shifts even for an hour or two just to have them see you.”

Communication: “Candid feedback” “A lot of rounding.” (Note: this could also be visibility.)

Respect and Empathy: “Do I expect you to take seven patients? No, because I wouldn’t be able to do it.” (punctuation adjusted).

These three key elements draw on components from several leadership qualities and behaviors: skillful communication, respecting and valuing the individual, and energy. Visibility is not as pro- minent in many of the leadership theories but

deserves a place in the description of what effective leaders do.