A Recipe for Effective Leadership
At some point in our lives, I assume that most of us, if not all, had experienced the chance to lead. We raise important questions, voice our values, use our talents, and create an impact— may it be at home, at work, and in relationships, interactions, and communication. Whether in simple or in complex situations, our leadership has been called on and expressed through our beliefs, thinking, and behavior. (1)
The emergence of authentic leadership model is a by-product of a constant in search of ways to meet up with the challenges in the health care organizations. Being of the same opinion with Wong and Cummings’ study on authentic leadership where in they have concluded that authentic leadership is both a new theoretical perspective and a return to timeless, genuine, and basic leadership attributes and processes core to several leadership theories (2), even with flaws and weaknesses, I believe that the discovery of such unique concoction of a leadership style to aid in the up-to-date dilemmas in the health care industry is brilliant.
According to Peter Drucker (1996) there are very few born leaders. Leadership must be learned. A singular leadership style with a specific personality with well-defined traits does not exist. What does exist is effectiveness as a leader. In addition to the concepts pointed out in Wong and Cumming’s study being authentic leadership as the root component of effective leadership, here is a commentary made by Nancy Dickerson on Peter Druckers’ proposition concerning effective leaders.
1. Every leader must have followers, validating James Kirkpatrick’s (1982) observation that to be a leader, one must “find out where the people want to go, then hustle yourself in front of them” quoted in Safire & Safire, 1982, p. 195).
Leaders can be visionaries, thinkers, or loners; they can be vain, charismatic, or disciplinarian. The diversity of the list of traits is exhaustive. But, without followers, there is no leader.
Nurses have many followers—patients, families, communities, students, and colleagues. As leaders, the challenge is to know what these followers need and want, then assist them in moving in the desired direction.
2. Effective leaders are not necessarily loved or admired, giving credence to Ron Heifetz and Linsky’s (2002) premise that “to lead is to live dangerously because when it counts you lead people through difficult change, often challenging what they hold dear” (p. 2). Leaders move followers to do the right thing. Popularity is not the objective; results are.
Nurses are a caring group, and the notion of not being loved or admired is somewhat contradictory to this core. Nevertheless, they lead their followers through difficult changes such as painful diagnostic news, hard staffing decisions, or performance inadequacies to emerge with the right results.
3. Leaders who are effective set example, giving meaning to Thoreau’s words that “men will believe what they see.” Leaders are highly visible, making it imperative that they model the behaviors they ask or expect of others. This is particularly true in times of change, and setting the behavioral example is a powerful expression of how important the new direction is.
Nurses set examples in every aspect of their work: in how they think, organize, and carry out their tasks; communicate and converse; present and dress themselves; and make decisions. Nurses are the bearers of their own future as leaders through the examples they set.
4. Leaders have responsibility, not rank, privilege, title, or money, which brings meaning to Heifetz and Linsky’s (2002) notion that “it is easy to confuse self with roles assumed” (p. 187).
The responsible leader learns to distinguish self, which relies on the capacity to learn through life experience and to rely on core values to orient decisions, and role, which depends mainly on the expectations of those around us. True leaders are intentional and authentic, achieving effectiveness by playing their role in accordance with beliefs and passion. They recognize that no role is big enough to express who they are.
(Drucker, 1996, p. xiii). Lastly, effective leaders submit themselves regularly to the “mirror test” by making sure that the person they see in the mirror is the kind of person they want to be, respect, and believe in (Drucker, 1996). Nurses lead in policy, politics, and practice by doing and being all of these things. They define, question, demand, expect, focus, recruit, and evaluate. They may not be born leaders, but they sure can become effective leaders.
Reflect on the following questions:
1. What kind of a leader are you? Do you have what it takes to be an authentic leader?
2. How effective are you as a leader? Point out your strengths and weaknesses.
3. Do you agree on Drucker’s four key elements of effective leadership? Explain why.
(1) Nancy Dickenson-Hazard, Cultivating Effective Leadership Skills for Nurses: A Commentary, Policy Politics Nursing Practice 2004 5: 145, DOI: 10.1177/1527154404266580
(2) Carol Wong and Greta Cummings, Authentic leadership: a new theory for nursing or back to basics?
(3) Heifetz, R., & Linsky, M. (2002). Leadership on the line. Boston:Harvard Business School Press.
(4) Drucker, P. (1996). Foreword: Not enough generals were killed. In F.
(5) Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith, & R. Beckhard (Eds.), Leader of the future (pp. xi-xv). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
(6) Safire, W., & Safire, L. (1982). Good advice. New York: Wing Books