Successful nursing leaders play a large role in improving quality of care to enhance patient outcomes, and positively shaping organizations with their values and visions. In today’s nursing profession, there are multiple styles of leadership utilized, which specifically depends on the individual, staff, and organization. This paper will discuss in depth the skills, and behaviors of that promote an effective nurse leader. By using the concepts that were learned this semester, I will analyze three characteristics of an effective leader, identify a leadership theory that is congruent with my perception of an effective nurse/manager, and utilize AONE Nurse Executive Competencies as well as my results from the Mind Tool surveys to assess my leadership strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, I will examine in what way short staffing effects the environment, safety and quality care, as well as how transformational nurse leaders face short staffing in today’s health care environment to improve outcomes.
One of the greatest challenges currently facing the nursing profession is developing effective nurse leaders. Any individual who is looked to as an authority or an individual responsible for offering assistance to others is considered a leader. Leadership is not simply a sequence of tasks or skills but rather an attitude that informs behavior. Effective leadership skills are needed by all nurses. Sullivan (2013) describes an effective leader as someone that is skilled in multiple areas, and motivated to improve as well as change our healthcare systems in the future. Effective leadership can be seen through consistent superior performance and the delivery of long term benefits to all people involved, either in receipt or delivery of care. Effective nurse leaders are not those that only control other but visionaries who help their employees to lead, plan, control and organize their daily activities. Everyone has been a leader at one time or another, but they have not necessarily inherited all the skills to be an effective leader. Several of these characteristics of an effective leader might come naturally; however, developing leadership skills is something everyone can work on.
Characteristics of an Effective Leader
A successful leader comprehends communication is a two way street that entails implementing effective listening as well as nonverbal communication. Sullivan (2013) describes a leader as someone that implements interpersonal skills in order to empower others to reach a specific goal. All nurses must be proficient in communication skills in their practice, however many still struggle with this concept and ultimately it is the nurse leaders responsibility to establish the skills that are lacking for these individuals. Effective nurse leaders will provide a healthy work environment by implementing an open door policy so staff has the opportunity to ask questions and share concerns (Rousell, 2013). An effective nurse leader is an example to the others. Notwithstanding of the leadership activity that is needed, a nurse leader is expected to act with utmost integrity, set clear and realistic goals, communicate often and clearly, motivate others, to build teams and inspire others to provide the best care. An effective leader’s actions are reflected by his or her staff in the care they give to patients each and every day.
Empathy is one of the key characteristics of an effective nursing leader. It is very important to take note that the employees, peers and bosses are all human beings who are worthy of respect from everyone (Rigolosi, 2013). An effective nursing leader takes into consideration the feelings of others and tries to understand them deeply. Even though most workers are of a lower rank, an effective leader may not show disrespect in any way. He or she will listen without making any judgments. It is a case of “wearing another person’s shoe” to be able to know how they feel, think or may react. For example, an employee may not be performing at his or her best because of a difficult issue that s/he may be facing. This may definitely affect his performance. An effective leader may go deeper than confront the employee and try and understand the situation s/he may be in. This will enable the leader to offer help to the employee and improve his or her performance. The understanding of employees feeling and ideas has proven to be a success with teams registering improved performances (Sullivan, 2013).
Mentorship is also a key characteristic of effective leaders. An effective leader must be a role model to his or her team members. An effective leader must display professionalism and work ethic that may be emulated by the workers. When a leader is at his best, the workers are more likely to perform better due to the example that the leader set. A leader should always check the progress of his co-workers and guide them in the right direction. As a role model, a staff will effectively absorb all the qualities needed by the organization. Role modeling goes a long way in improving the employees’ skill set and also transforms them into emerging leaders. For example, when a leader motivates his or her staff and gives them the freedom to explore other ideas, they build their confidence and decision-making skills. This may lead to an improved performance of the firm in the long run. The goal of mentorship is to create a supportive and stable environment for professional growth (Rousell, 2013).
An effective leader must also demonstrate effective communication at all times. Communication is vital to any given organization. Any breakdown in communication always leads to conflicts with the firm. Hence, an effective leader ensures that all communication lines are working without any hitches. An effective leader should communicate to his workers daily and inspire them. Communication enables a leader to understand the needs of the workers and also their feelings. It is through communication that an effective leader would take note of valuable information that may improve the organization and also better ways of resolving conflicts. It has widely been agreed that communication is the most important attribute of effective leadership. A leader that fails to communicate effectively and often will most likely experience misunderstandings with peers, workers and bosses. Eventually, he or she will fail as a leader.
Leadership is defined as the process of influencing people so that they willingly and enthusiastically strive toward the achievement of a goal (Curtis & Sheerin, 2011). Transformational leadership theory is a theory that developed recently given that organizations needed to reestablish and reinvent themselves in this new global market. The theory emphasizes on the relationship between the leader and his followers. In this theory, the leader is concerned with ensuring that both the leaders and employees share the common vision of transforming the organization and work together toward the common goal of the organization. It is more like the leaders instill as moral focus on the group that focuses mainly on needs of the many rather than the needs of individuals. Leaders, in this theory, have the absolute faith in their followers to accomplish the organizational goals.
Transformational leaders ooze a certain charisma that draws followers to him hence allowing him or her to motivate them further to attain goals (Curtis & Sheerin, 2011). Transformative leaders can achieve higher level performances by inspiring, motivating innovative ways of thinking, and also through transforming their aspirations and beliefs. Doing so, the organization mission is easier to be attained. Through skill communication, transformative leaders are able to promote self confidence amongst their team members and also inspire trust. Positive relationships have always been found out employee motivation and transformational leadership. The positive relationship formed between the leader and his followers’ results in better performance for the team. Bass (1998) identified four integral parts of transformational leadership that include: charismatic leadership (idealized influence), inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration.
According to Carney (2006) the current century requires that can articulate a vision that can lead to employee motivation and adapt to the rapidly changing environments. Leaders must be able to carry out an assessment of the organization so as to come up with a safe and secure place. Transformational leadership embraces the empowerment employees to help their employees and leaders to achieve their organizational goals and embraces shared power, responsibility and accountability. Consequently, transformational leadership is the style of leadership with the healthcare environments of today. The issue of positive leadership has emerged as an issue of great concern today given that it is associated with job satisfaction, motivation, loyalty to the organization, greater productivity and reduced stress levels among the employees. It influences the retention of nurses in the industry and motivates while inspiring nurses and other followers. A huge body of evidence shows that transformative leadership and motivation are positively correlated which ultimately leads to a better performance. Transformational leadership also has a positive correlation with job satisfaction, job effectiveness and productivity. As a result, transformative leadership has gained much prominence in the current healthcare systems.
Following my assessment of the AONE Nurse Executive competencies as well as my results from the Mind Tool surveys to assess my leadership/management skills, I identified my strengths and weaknesses. Among my strengths are effective communication and motivation. Over the course of this semester, I can comfortably attest that I have become an effective communicator. To begin with, making oral presentations to different audiences on nursing, healthcare and other organization issues was never my strength as I started this course. I had stage fright and was scared of diverse audiences. I was always wondering of what they would think of my presentations and whether I could ever give an effective presentation. But after months of practice and a number of presentations, I can conclusively say that I am no longer afraid of crowds and able to give an effective presentation. Also, my writing skills have greatly improved and I am able to produce high quality nursing papers. Effective communication is a skill that every leader should possess as it holds the team together
Motivation is my other strength. Having have worked with a number of people from diverse backgrounds over the course of this semester, I have found ways of understanding them. I have noted of the things that interest them and those that put them off. With this knowledge, I am able to influence people behavior based on their tastes and preferences. I am now confident that I can influence people to improve their performance through rewards and punishment. I am able to carry out assessments of people’s performance and communicate what is required. Through communication I am also able to create and put forward a common vision shared by all members of the team. Motivation is an essential skill in that it is associated with staff retention, productivity and loyalty (Curtis & Sheerin, 2011). In as much as the assessment revealed my strengths, it also revealed a weakness of mine, relationship management. It is not that I am strongly weak but only in a few key areas that I can work on. For example, a situation where I have to deliver “bad news” I am often unable to do so. In cases where I have to tell an employee that he or she is being relieved his or her duties, I always empathize with the employee in a way that the information may lose credibility. An effective leader must be bold enough to deliver news, good or bad, without any fear whatsoever (Curtis & Sheerin, 2011).
Issue: Short Staffing
Short-staffing is the case of having fewer staff than is desirable or required. This is an issue that is crippling the healthcare industry given the growing number of hospitals with fewer staff. In today’s world, increasing the staffing levels is not an easy task (Blegen et al, 2011). Some of the factors leading to lower staffing include gap existing between the number of positions available and the number of registered nurses to fill those positions or willing to fill the position (Sullivan, 2013). Also, there is the increasing number of higher acuity patients who demand more care from nurses. Short-staffing has a huge impact on the healthcare industry. First, short-staffing means that the available nurses have to handle a bigger workload which may take a toll on their health and well-being (Bowers, Esmond & Jacobson, N, 2000). Over working them reduces their productivity which negative affects the quality of healthcare they offer to patients. When nurses are made to work with the high patient to nurse ratios, patients may die, get injured or sent back home. Adequate number of nurses may lead to better care, less injuries and a safe environment.
Short-staffing in the healthcare industry has gained much prominence over the last few years (Blegen et al, 2011). Nurses often strive to provide the optimum patient care. Nevertheless, this becomes difficult when their workload increases (Bowers, Esmond & Jacobson, N, 2000). With the growing ration between patient and nurses, it has become difficult for the few registered nurses to attend to all the needs of the patients. In worst case scenarios, these short staffing has resulted in the death of many patients and also injuries. It is evident that with the growing demands of the healthcare industry, a shortage of nurses usually takes a toll on the nurses and patients (Blegen et al, 2011). Recent statistics reveal that most nurses at the moment are being overworked. This affects their morale, productivity and loyalty. Organizations face the herculean task of trying to retain these nurses. With no measures taking place to address the situation, the healthcare industry will crumble.
Using transformative theory, one of the ways to address the short-staffing problem is allowing for career development for the nurses through trainings and development. It is increasingly necessary to give nurses a chance to further their training and education (Bowers, Esmond & Jacobson, N, 2000). Hospitals would not only see improvements in their operations from their educated nurses, but would also earn their loyalty. Loyalty is key to retaining nurses in this changing environment. Putting in place a flexible schedule for the nurses would also be a strong motivator. There should be in place a strong work-life balance. This would help the nurses reduce stress and would also create a positive work environment for them to work in. Motivation and a positive work environment would boost their productivity and loyalty. Emphasis on team work and collaboration is also a way of addressing the issue. Teams not only reduce the workload of a single nurse but also boost the morale and motivation of the nurses. Teams would accomplish the task even though there is short staffing. Effective teamwork often leads to the accomplishment of tasks at a faster rate and effectively.
Effective leadership in nursing has been stressed for a number of years given that nursing is the largest discipline in healthcare. Research has revealed that there is a positive correlation between positive leadership and improved outcomes on the safety patient, lower turnover, job satisfaction, loyalty and healthy work environments. It is evident that effective leadership is more than having a set of skills. Effective nurse leaders should possess the ability to communicate effectively, possess interpersonal skills and knowledge of management among others. Even though it can be argued that the new environment has presented numerous challenges for healthcare, it should be noted that effective nursing leadership should not be viewed as an optional role. Effective leadership must exist in every hospital at all times.
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