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Transformational Leadership in Healthcare

Texas A&M International University’s (TAMIU) online Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare Administration degree program includes a course devoted to transformational leadership. This area of study focuses on applying transformational leadership practices to address needed changes and transitions in healthcare systems — one of the most important results being improved patient outcomes.

What Is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leadership shifts the leadership role from more traditional, transactional, autocratic approaches to one based on motivation, inspiration and collective change. Transformational leaders use charisma, personality and compassion to engage others in realizing a shared vision.

In this leadership style, followers are inspired to go above and beyond and accomplish more than they had anticipated. Transformational leaders achieve such levels of motivation by fostering alignment between followers’ values and goals and those of the organization. Leaders must emphasize creating collaborative relationships built on empathy as opposed to hierarchical power structures.

This leadership style is distinctly more employee-centric than transactional, autocratic or purely task-oriented leadership. Transformational leadership is not as disengaged or passive as traditional leadership structures, and it is results-oriented with the intent to inspire and create positive change.

In transformational leadership, the means of effecting change are part of the intended result. Inspiring empathy, supportive relationships, motivation and buy-in to a shared vision results in job satisfaction, improved morale, collaboration, increased productivity and further engagement with that shared vision. This fosters ongoing transformative change.

How Can Professionals Apply Transformational Leadership in Healthcare Settings?

According to Moving Health Care Upstream (MHCU), the key to transformational leadership in healthcare is collaborative goal-setting:

“Within the health care setting, transformational leadership involves the process of visioning a desired outcome, analyzing present reality, and realizing the opportunities for improved health care delivery via cultural change within an organization. Effective leaders realize that only through collaboration can we achieve healthier communities.”

Transformational leaders in healthcare organizations take an interdisciplinary approach addressing desired outcomes. They identify needed organizational change based on health outcome data as well as input from staff, patients and the community. They build relationships with staff, community members, community partner organizations and others to collaboratively assess community health needs and form a collective vision that aligns with those needs.

Transformational leaders use various methods to inspire their staff to achieve this shared vision. First, they model the change they want to see. Second, they mentor and support others, encouraging and facilitating leadership development. Finally, they hold themselves and others accountable to high standards, keeping everyone focused on the shared vision.

Transformational leadership is also preventative, not reactive. The vision and actions of transformational leaders should also engage staff, partners and the community in addressing the root causes of health needs and inequities. This can involve collaboratively supporting community-based prevention programs, community health education programs and other initiatives.

Overall, transformational leaders in healthcare settings focus on relationships and collaboration to improve health outcomes. Transformational leaders listen, show empathy and incorporate input from all stakeholders into their vision. This ensures staff, community members and community partners all feel represented in and committed to that vision.

Improved Outcomes for Patients, Healthcare Organizations and Employees

MHCU refers to transformational leadership as the “common denominator” in “innovations that will help realize the triple aim to improve health, improve patient experiences, and reduce costs.” Studies have evidenced this, tying transformational leadership in healthcare to a wide array of interconnected positive outcomes for patients and staff.

Transformational leadership has been correlated with effective nursing unit organizational culture and structural empowerment, improved staff retention and stability. This can reduce turnover costs and help nurses hone their skills. In addition, it suggests job satisfaction and engagement, which drive performance and improved quality of care and patient health outcomes.

Indeed, transformational leadership and empowering workplaces in healthcare have positively impacted patient safety, nursing quality of care and patient satisfaction in certain settings. Transformational leadership is also associated with lower patient mortality.

Effective transformational leadership in healthcare administration can clearly improve the experience and performance of healthcare workers. This, in turn, benefits patients’ health outcomes. Plus, transformational leadership’s focus on community engagement and collaborative initiatives can magnify positive impact on a community’s overall health, lowering costs to public healthcare systems and improving health access for all.

Learn more about Texas A&M International University’s Online MBA in Healthcare Administration program.


Moving Health Care Upstream: Using Transformational Leadership to Move Health Care Upstream

U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Importance of Leadership Style towards Quality of Care Measures in Healthcare Settings: A Systematic Review

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