By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
New leaders often struggle with what type of leader they want to be. There is strong evidence that the most successful style of leadership in today’s nursing environments is Transformational leadership. It has been identified as a key ingredient in the ANCC Magnet model because it has been shown to create environments that attract and retain nurses. It can also transform countries as Nelson Mandela demonstrated in South Africa in his rise from prisoner to president.
There are four building blocks to Transformational leadership. These include:
Idealized influence – is sometimes also called charisma, describes a leader’s ability to inspire high standards and serve as a role model for outstanding professional practice. Such a leader gains the trust and respect of staff.
Inspirational motivation refers to the leader’s ability to communicate a vision that staff can understand and want to be a part of. For example, a nurse leader with a Transformational style would find creative ways to inspire staff with a vision for the future, including meeting with groups of staff or using staff e-mails to lay out goals and ways of reaching them.
Intellectual stimulation is provided by a leader who asks for and values staff input, who challenges followers to develop creative and innovative solutions and who continually seeks ways to provide growth and development opportunities. A climate in which intellectual stimulation is supported prompts staff to challenge assumptions, to reframe problems and to look at new ways of doing things. For example, a Transformational leader would provide time for nurses to work with resource staff to incorporate evidence-based practice findings into patient care. Leaders who support intellectual stimulation find ways to encourage nurses to voice their own ideas about improving patient care and pave the way for innovations to be tested and incorporated into the nursing culture.
Individualized consideration refers to the commitment of the leader to coaching and mentoring and the leader’s awareness of and concern for the needs of nursing staff. A transformational leader knows individual staff member’s career aspirations and is often in a position to guide individuals to invaluable mentoring opportunities.
These building blocks sound great in theory as a student recently pointed out to me but what about their application in leadership practice. The following 4 practical strategies that you can implement to become more Transformational in your style:
- Personalize your management style
Transformational leaders understand the need to learn about each individual staff member and when possible, give individual consideration. Your staff have different personalities, needs and skills and this should be honored.
- Encourage creativity
Transformational leaders foster innovation and creativity by challenging assumptions about what can and cannot be done. When staff take risks to improve care but make a mistake, be supportive of the risk taking if you need to take corrective action. As a leader, focus on removing barriers to change and approach problems as learning opportunities. Ask staff to push back and challenge you on your ideas.
- Guide, motivate and inspire
Transformational leaders have a positive mindset and exude motivation. Set a vision, strategy and goals for unit that are congruent with your health system but also motivational. Always connect the work of your unit to a great purpose by keeping it patient-centered. Celebrate successes with enthusiasm. Show confidence in the ideas of your staff.
- Be a role model
As a leader, you are always being watched. Your behavior will have far greater impact than words. Transformational leaders understand that they must walk the talk. Act with integrity and ethical standards; with both your behaviors and your words. Your team will take note of what you do and use it as a template for how they act and behave. It happens automatically and subconsciously, whether the behavior is positive or negative—people will follow your example. It will happen with intention for Transformational leaders—people will strive to be like you.
Nurse leaders who use Transformational leadership principles create a climate in which nurses have greater commitment to their organizations and high levels of morale, job satisfaction and work performance.
Read to Lead
Magnet Recognition Program model. American Nurses Credentialing Center Web site. http://www.nursecredentialing.org/Magnet/ProgramOverview/New-Magnet-Model.aspx
Weberg D. Transformational leadership and staff retention: An evidence review with implications for healthcare systems. Nurs Adm Q. 2010;34(3):246-258.
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