The servant leadership style tends to be highly effective in healthcare organizations. Adoption of the servant leadership model presupposes establishing a work environment aimed at promoting shared decision making as well as community experience.
It is considered that the term ‘servant leadership’ was proposed by the American philosopher Robert Greenleaf. It is worth noting that this type of leadership requires the deepest level of intuitive perception and understanding, empathy, the ability to look within and around, a sense of community and a stable framework of values (Marquis & Huston, 2012, 52). According to this theory, a person should be focused on helping and supporting others in their individual and professional growth. Focusing on the formation of a team of like-minded people results in creating conditions for personal involvement in the process and decision-making. Furthermore, the servant leadership model ensures favorable social and psychological climate in an organization, as well as ethical and caring behavior.
In the nursing setting, a leader as a servant can be considered the one who creates the conditions to meet the professional needs of nurses and at the same time supports them. Thus, performance indicators embrace professional growth as well as personal development. The capacity for conceptual thinking and vision of the future, particularly striking a balance between conceptualizing and solving problems is noticeable as well. Therefore, servant leaders have foresight and the ability to listen and understand, thus they are valued for their communication skills and capability to make decisions and delve into problems (Waterman, 2011, 26). Apparently, a sense of empathy is a particularly important quality. A servant leader should understand the inner world of nurses and patients and to notice their uniqueness.
A true leader is aimed at obtaining new knowledge. With comprehensive knowledge, a leader clearly sees the challenges of organizational ethics, which makes it possible to consider the same situation from different perspectives. Using the methods of persuasion, especially making organizational decisions is another feature of leadership that is required in nursing. This feature makes it possible to understand the fundamental difference between the traditional authoritarian model of leadership and the servant leadership theory.
Scruggs-Garber et al. (2009) in their comparative study, argue that collaboration and servant leadership is a fundamental in the realm of health care. The data was collected, comparing “the survey of the Jefferson Scale of Attitudes toward Physician-Nurse Collaboration with the Barbuto-Wheeler Servant Leadership Questionnaire in the south-eastern America” (Scruggs-Garber et al., 2009, 331). The study endeavored to explore physicians’, nurses’ along with residents’ attitudes towards servant leadership and collaboration in the organization with the patient-centered model of practice (Scruggs-Garber et al., 2009, 332).
Through the framework of relationship-centered care the insight into the concept of servant leadership as well as collaborative environment was provided. An emphasis is placed on encouraging teamwork, collaboration and the desire to learn from others. Nurses, physicians and residents view themselves as role models for collaboration, however, in terms of the servant leadership, nurses’ and physicians’ self-perceptions are far more positive than their perceptions with regard to the organizational leadership practices (Scruggs-Garber et al., 2009, 338). Interestingly, the self-perceptions of residents with regard to organizational leadership as well as whether they perceive themselves as servant leaders are positive. Scruggs-Garber et al. (2009) are adamant that the environment that lacks hierarchy, but fosters harmony ultimately leads to a positive outcome.
The servant leadership, first of all, is committed to serving the needs of others. Therefore, a leader uses more acceptable methods of motivating and encouraging personnel, rather than controlling and punishing them. Servant leaders believe that each person is valuable and makes a real contribution to organizational activities. Therefore, leaders encourage and promote personal, professional and spiritual growth of each employee in the organization. It is worth noting that social institutions have a tremendous impact on many aspects of people's lives and are of great importance in the fulfillment of each individual. Leaders in health care have to forge alliances in order to meet shared goals and the needs of diverse communities (Waterman, 2011, 25). This is due primarily to the fact that a leader should be a well-versed nurse, being perfectly familiar with the efficient way of how to manage nursing staff. The goal of management in nursing is to optimize the use of human resources of nurses to enhance the effectiveness of treatment, self-medication and quality of care. Particular emphasis in health care management is focused on optimizing the interaction between medical staff and patients.
It is essential to note that a passionate and strong servant leaders do not view leadership in terms of status. They consider leadership as an opportunity to foster the environment, thereby recognizing and meeting patients’ and nurses’ needs. The servant leadership model appears to sustain a culture aimed at a quality care and meaningful work environment, thereby reflecting the moral and psychological climate in the nursing setting. Culture is an umbrella term for strategies, goals, values, ideas, behavior standards, attitude towards staff, the role of leaders and many other features of organizational life. From the perspective of professional competence of a leader, management style and the influence of the corporate culture itself, sets the direction of a hospital within the health system.
Marquis, B. L., & Huston, C. J. (2012). Leadership roles and management functions in nursing: Theory and application. (7th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Scruggs-Garber, J., Madigan, E. A., Click, E. R., & Fitzpatrick, J. J. (2009). Attitudes towards collaboration and servant leadership among nurses, physicians and residents. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 23(4), 331–340.
Waterman, H. (2011). Principles of ‘servant leadership’ and how they can enhance practice. Nursing Management, 17(9), 24-26.