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How to Be a Transformational Nurse Leader

There are many different kinds of business leaders. Some lead by example. Some assert dominance. Others foster a nurturing environment, encouraging and inspiring their employees.

Then there are transformational leaders. They not only motivate and inspire employees, but they also encourage creativity. They urge employees to take ownership and help shape company culture. Transformational leaders are found across all industries and all types of businesses.

So what does this have to do with nursing? Well, if you aspire to be a nurse leader, embracing the philosophy of transformational leadership could very well help set you on a career path you might not have previously envisioned.

The Basics of Transformational Leadership

In a nutshell, transformational leadership involves inspiring and motivating without micromanaging. It is a type of leadership that involves trusting employees with more authority over how they do their jobs. It also involves taking on not only a training role, but also a mentorship role.

Attributes of a Transformational Leader

The following are some characteristics of an effective transformational leader:

Innovation and adaptability – If you have the ability to create positive change within a corporate culture, while also adapting to changes created by someone else, you might have what it takes to be an effective transformational leader. This type of leader works to stay on top of trends while also setting new ones. Above all, a transformational leader never stops learning.

Proactivity – While the word “disrupter” has a negative connotation for many, it is typically a good thing in business. Instead of waiting for change, a disrupter is proactive. Disrupters are bold — even if they might fail now and then.

Open-mindedness – The my-way-or-the-highway style of leadership does not apply here. Effective transformational leaders are open to new ideas and willing to implement them. Instead of jumping to conclusions, they value, accept and use input from others to make decisions.

Trustworthiness – Employees will not hesitate to offer suggestions if they trust their leader won’t jump down their throats for ideas gone awry or take all the credit for successful outcomes.

Humility – In order to be a truly transformational leader, you’ll need to keep your ego in check. Just about everyone in a leadership position has at least some ego, but letting it get out of control can be a major problem. These so-called leaders care more about their own careers than those of the people around them. Transformational leaders recognize the need for a team of trustworthy members whose input they value for the betterment of the organization.

What Is the Role of Transformational Leadership in Nursing?

The healthcare environment is often volatile and filled with uncertainty. Transformational leadership is extremely effective in healthcare settings where nurse leaders keep the focus on improving patient care.

Staff members don’t just accept the vision of a transformational nurse leader — they embrace it. They feel personally invested in making that vision a reality. Transformational leaders urge their staff to challenge the status quo and find better ways to achieve goals.

Transformational leadership is a markedly different approach from the transactional leadership often found in healthcare organizations. The transactional approach is largely based on a system of rewards. You deliver the work required and receive rewards in the form of compensation. The better you are at delivering the work, the higher your chances of getting a raise. Punitive measures exist for mistakes, which tend to elicit compliance and a mere checking of the boxes instead of the sense of ownership and a desire to innovate that lead to improved patient care.

One of the biggest issues with the transactional approach is the lack of a shared vision among nurse leaders and their staff members. Nurses simply perform their tasks. Transactional leadership generates little in the way of job satisfaction or commitment to an organization.

Transformational leadership, on the other hand, fosters a culture of inspiration and intellectual stimulation. It encourages creativity and staff member involvement. Errors are not a basis for punishment, but rather learning opportunities. As a result, morale is higher.

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) offers a Transformational Leadership course as part of its online Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Administration program. In this course, students learn effective leadership styles for managing quality and costs in healthcare systems.

Learn more about TAMIU’s Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Administration online program.


CIO: What Is Transformational Leadership? A Model for Motivating Innovation

Forbes: The 10 Habits of Transformational Leaders The Role of Transformational Leadership in Nursing

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