What Type of Leader is an Executive Nurse?

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Leadership is a popular topic in business, but a lot of attention has been paid recently to leadership in the nursing field. An executive nurse is in a leadership position and needs to be the type of leader who can get things done and inspire others to perform better. 

Types of Leaders

As a nurse expands their skills and experiences, there comes a time when consideration is given to moving up to a higher position and taking on leadership responsibilities. This necessitates taking a good, long look at various leadership styles and determining what type of leader they want to be.

There are a number of leadership styles that are found in the nursing profession and elsewhere. All of them carry advantages and disadvantages.

The key benefit of being an autocratic leader is that this type is particularly good during a crisis. When a patient needs emergency medical treatment, an autocratic leader provides instructions and gets the job done efficiently. It is a suitable style when the executive nurse has to insist on staff following policies and procedures that are essential to patient health and safety matters. However, the drawback of this style is that it tends to shut off communication from others whose inputs could prove invaluable. Likewise, it does not build team spirit or instill trust, relies on negative feedback, and lacks positive encouragement. 

On the other side of the spectrum is the laissez-faire leadership style. This works well if the executive nurse is managing a highly competent team where the individuals work independently and need minimum guidance. With less experienced staff, this leadership style provides inadequate guidance and may compromise the wellbeing of patients.

An executive nurse with a democratic leadership style risks reducing their ability to make decisions in an emergency as they may be too reliant on contributions to the process from their team. Although this style is beneficial for team members who want an opportunity to develop their leadership abilities, it may reduce the executive nurse’s perceived authority.

The executive nurse is required to make multiple daily decisions and it has been shown that transformational leaders sometimes lack in this competency while being very good at inspiring staff and making the most of their abilities. Transformational leadership has a positive outcome for patient safety and employee satisfaction.

Servant leaders value relationships and are skilled at mentoring their subordinates and providing them with the tools to do their jobs. This type of leader prioritizes the team and its goals but may lack a strategic focus. 

Transactional leaders are bureaucrats. While this is a good style for dealing with tasks, this leader may come down on staff for every error and not be able to motivate the team. They are good with deadlines, protocols, and emergencies.

Finally, the situational leadership type is an adaptable one that can respond well to individuals or situations and take on a suitable style to match current circumstances. These leaders may lose sight of long-term goals and institutional objectives but work well in the clinical leadership role.

How to be an Influential Leader

In the American Nurses Association Scope and Standards for Nursing Administrators, it is specified that an incumbent in the chief nurse executive (CNE) position is required to display the competency of being able to influence others. Influence is important to ensuring that subordinates and peers are motivated in their work and being supported in their duties. It also increases the capacity of the executive nurse to obtain resources for their department and to practice effective decision-making. 

Providing quality care and offering a positive patient experience is always at the forefront of a nursing leader’s vision. 

The Adams Influence Model (AIM) was designed to help executive nurses achieve influence in their working spheres. According to this model, influence is defined as the capability of the agent (the executive nurse) to persuade an individual or team (known as the target) through the use of their level, authority, knowledge, communication skills, and the efficacious employment of timing. Each time the executive nurse uses her influence, the outcome differs depending on the context. So, in some matters, they will be more influential than others. Influence is impacted by personal (e.g., traits), interpersonal (e.g., history with targets), and social factors (e.g., institutional culture).

The executive nurse can make use of the model to determine what factors are in play when they need to exert an influence and how best to time their approach.

Obtaining Leadership Qualifications

Various nursing leadership courses are available through institutions like Baylor University to the nurse aspiring to be in a leadership position. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Executive Nurse Leadership program will equip the ambitious nurse with the qualifications and understanding to stand out among other applicants for an available position. What is especially advantageous about such programs is that the studying takes place completely online and does not require the nurse to attend any lessons. 

Nursing leadership courses teach skills and not only theory. The student will want to make sure they are prepared for all the roles involved in being an executive nurse. One role involves dealing with barriers to team performance. Another is being a champion for their institution. They are required to coach the members of their team and develop them professionally. Additionally, they must manage the day-to-day tasks that they and their team are responsible for. The executive nurse must have a vision and to be able to communicate this effectively to peers, superiors, and subordinates. Staff motivation is an essential role in building a capable and willing team and bringing out the best in each member. They must also take responsibility for their decisions and the actions of their team. This involves looking at the financial, social, and environmental implications of their choices.

A leader has to take on several roles in their position to accomplish team and organizational goals. They also need to determine what type of leader they are and how to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. 

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