March 27th, 2020

Looking for Leadership

“There was a time when I thought brains were everything. That view has dimmed recently. I think brains are important, but now I also look for good team-builders, good communicators, and courageous people who do not get stuck with an idea. You need people who are more nimble, who have the ability to lead organizations in changing and tumultuous times comfortably, without panicking.” Larry Bossidy, CEO, Allied Signal, Inc.

What is leadership? Without thinking deeply about what constitutes an effective leader, I suspect we can all recall good and bad leaders whether in our past or currently.

The task of leading is changing. Gone is the traditional old-style command and control, autocratic model of leadership. Today there is a more inclusive style of leadership---one that abandons the hierarchical, secretive and change-adverse style to an open, collaborative and risk-tolerant model. Leadership is no longer about control, coercion and disempowerment but about inspiration, facilitation and empowerment. Leadership is consensual, relational, web-based, caring and transparent.

Leadership is now viewed as a series of concentric circles. No longer is a leader at the top of a pyramid. Rather he or she occupies an innermost circle where a leader must first know them self to achieve self-mastery. Leadership is a journey that starts internally with self-control, initiative, adaptability and trustworthiness. A second circle, containing the first, represents the organization of which the leader is a part. After self leadership, a leader leads this larger group. The third, outer circle represents a multitude of organizations with which to cooperate, coordinate, and partner collaboratively. This form of leadership requires one to listen and learn from others around the outer circles and, most importantly, from those even completely outside the circle. These circles continue to ripple to denote levels of the individual, the organization, community, and society at large.

Leaders think globally and act locally. They should be good managers and possess leadership skills. Managers ensure smooth functioning of the system; leaders are the change agents. Leaders actually sell the vision and inspire others to also achieve and they practice through action planning. They should be systems thinkers as they set priorities. They try to prevent problems by being proactive and not reactive. They form leadership teams and coalitions to tackle issues while they share a strong belief in a sense of community as they work with a variety of community leaders to affect change. And leaders practice what they preach. They try to balance work and home life, emulating the programs and policies they espouse. Leaders are committed to personal growth because high self esteem engenders the ability to inspire others.

Leaders must be knowledge synthesizers. They need to be creative. They should create, share and demonstrate a commitment to a vision. Leadership requires mentoring. Leaders foster and facilitate collaboration as they serve as colleague, friend, and advocate for others. They need to possess entrepreneurial ability. They implement innovative ideas and they must be effective communicators.

Of the top eight leadership traits and abilities are technical skills, friendliness, task motivation
and application, support for the group, social and interpersonal skills, emotional balance and
control, leadership effectiveness and achievement, and administrative skills. The top charac-teristics of admired leaders are honesty, the ability to be forward-looking, inspiring, competent, and fair-mindedness.

My personal definition of leadership is one of team management. I'm a visionary but I can also see the basic nuts and bolts of how to make things run smoothly. I enjoy collaborative, team efforts and I definitely see the importance of rewarding, retaining and recognizing others, valuing their judgment and skills. The leadership style that I support is when the level for employees and production is high, then trusting, secure relationships develop and most, if not all, employees feel a commitment to the organization.

A “best” leadership style does not exist. Rather situational leadership is a theory that adjusts to different situations, allowing different strategies for different employees. The leader matches the style of the current situation to maximize human productivity and satisfaction. Of the various leadership styles—coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, coaching—coaching is the one that is highly supportive and highly directive.

And so, just how is leadership conceptualized and exercised? How would you answer the following questions when considering your style of leadership or the top leadership of our country?

Do the members of my team trust me and each other?
Are my actions consistent with my words?
Are my team members and I honest with one another?
Is information readily shared?
Do I keep my commitments to team members?
Do they keep their commitments to each other?
Do my team and I listen effectively to one another?
Do we address disagreements and other conflicts proactively
and responsibly?
Do we value differences?
Is my work environment inclusive, engaging, and empowering
versus exclusive, controlling and patronizing?
Do I foster cooperation and information sharing with other
Does my team have fun at work? Do we celebrate together
as team?

There is dire need for a new definition of leadership to include cooperation, flexibility, egalitarian team playing, and broader perspectives. Nurses, and I feel women in particular, make good, even great, leaders because they are ideally suited to this evolving leadership style. As Sally Hegelsen says in The Female Advantage, “women are knocking on the door of leadership at the very moment when their talents are especially well matched with the requirements of the day.” And it was Albert Einstein that said, “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

Teresa Wright, MPH, BSN, RN, NCSN, R-CHES, is a graduate of UWs Fay Whitney School of Nursing BRAND Program. She resides in Cheyenne, WY & Steamboat Springs, CO as she pursues her nursing interests in prevention, promotion, public health and school nursing.

() |
Comments (3)

Comments (3)

I love this! If only my experience with nurse leadership matched your definitions! I have worked for some of the most toxic in nursing- managers that create hostility and inspire burnout. Some of my coworkers over the years have been natural-born leaders; men and women that I look up to and trust in times like these. Unfortunately, many of them become targets by the powers that be, burn out and eventually leave the unit(s). This may be a good time for nursing to revive itself and address these issues. It's about time for a new breed of leadership to emerge!

| Reply

HI Teresa:

Thanks for joining our conversation and adding these thoughts about leadership. How do you think this crisis is changing the leadership role for nurses? Do you feel like your leadership potential is being rewarded and recognized now?

| Reply

No, I don't. I have have a hard time having a suggestion or idea recognized. I've have gotten to the point of calling that out and slowly that is changing. We are all in this together and we all have something to contribute. I agree I may have some off-putting armor and I'm willing to self-evaluate that to the point of seeking out quality resources from Brene Brown and Dare to Lead books and workshops. Nurses that have public health training have a unique perspective to offer. We need to understand this disease like we do diabetes, seizures and so much. It is our domain to confidently communicate that knowledge to others but rarely are we consulted as a group.