Nursing Leadership Theories Nursing Leadership Comparison and Term Paper

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Nursing Leadership Theories


The work of Cherie and Gebrekida (2005) report that there is both formal and informal leadership in that managers are formally "delegated authority, including the power to reward or punish. A manager is expected to perform functions such as planning, organizing, directing (leading) and controlling (evaluating)." On the other hand, informal leaders are "not always managers performing those functions required by the organization. Leaders often are not even part of the organization. Florence Nightingale, after leaving the Crimea, was not connected with an organization but was still a leader." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

Trait Theories

Early leadership theories included that of 'trait theories' which held a fundamental belief that "leaders are born, not made." Trait theory makes the assumption that an individual has "certain innate abilities, personality traits or other characteristics in order to be a leader." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005) This meant that it was true that some people actually lead better than do others. Another early theory was that of 'great man' theory which posited that some well-known leaders have had a hand in determining or changing the course of history and that some individuals "possessed characteristics that made them great leaders." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005) Examples include Ghandhi and Hitler. Individual characteristics have been the focus of many studies on leadership however, it is reported, "not single traits has been discovered in all leaders..." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005) Additionally reported is the fact that there are "certain traits and behaviors commonly associated with leadership abilities." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005 ) Charismatic leaders are those who possess a quality setting them apart from others and whom appears to be in possession of some type of "supernatural, superhuman, [or to be] endowed with exceptional qualities or powers." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

II. Behavioral Theories

Behavioral theories make a distinction between which the leader is and what the leader actually does in attempting to understand leadership. Lewin, Lippitt and White (1960) conducted classic research on "the interaction between leaders and group members indicating that the behavior of the leader could substantially influence the climate and outcomes of the group." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005) The behaviors of leaders were separated into "three distinct patterns called leadership styles: (1) authoritarian, (2) democratic and (3) lassisez-faire." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

Authoritarian Leadership

The authoritarian leader is such that "maintains strong control over people in the group. This control may be benevolent and considerate (Paternalistic leadership) or it may be dictatorial, with the complete disregard for the needs and feelings of group members." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005) The authoritarian leader gives instructions in the form of orders and fully expects their instructions to be obeyed by those whom they lead. Authoritarian leaders give feedback generally through critical analysis of the work performed. Decision-making belongs to the authoritarian leader alone. This type of leadership is highly effective in emergencies where "…clear directions are the highest priority. It is also appropriate when the entire focus is on getting the job done or in large group when it is difficult to share decision making for some reason. It is often referred to today as a directive or controlling style of leadership." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

Democratic Leadership Theory

Democratic leadership is differentiated from authoritarian leadership by the following democratic leadership principles: (1) decision-making is a group activity; (2) freedom of belief exists within reason set by the group; (3) all individuals are responsible for self and group welfare; (4) all group members are valued as unique individuals. (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

Laissez Faire Leadership Theory

The laissez faire leader is described as being "generally inactive, passive, and non-directive. The laissez- faire leader leaves virtually all of the control and decision making to the group and provides little or no direction, guidance, or encouragement. Laissez faire leaders offer very little to the group: few commands, questions, suggestions, or criticism. They are very permissive, set almost no limits, and allow almost any behavior. Some laissez faire leaders are quite supportive of individual group members and will provide information or suggestions when asked. The more extreme laissez faire leader, however, will turn such a request back to the group. When the laissez faire style becomes extreme, no leadership exists at all." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

II. Situational Theories

Contingency Theory

Within the realm of 'Situational Theories' is the contingency theory posited by Fred Fiedler which contains "three situational variables to predict the favorability of a situation for the leaders: the leaders' interpersonal relations with group members, the leader's legitimate power and the task structure." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005) Variables that impact leadership effectiveness from their perspective include: (1) leader-member relations; (2) degree of task structure; and (3) position power. (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005) Position power may be either weak or strong and is not reflective of the strength of the personality of the individual. "The greater the position power, the more favorable the situation." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005) The contingency model holds that the nurse manager should make modifications of the situation based on the relations existing within the group. Specifically stated is: "A nurse manager who uses the contingency model must have a thorough understanding of his/her relationship with staff members, his/her power and status within the organization, and the nature of the group task." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

Path Goal-Theory

The Path-Goal Theory of Robert House (1971) holds that the motivational function of management "is to help employees see the relationship between personal and organizational goals, clarify the 'paths' to accomplishing these goals, remove obstacles to goal achievement and reward employees for the work accomplished." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

Theories X and Y

Included in Contemporary Leader-Manager Theories are 'Theories X and Y' (Douglas McGregor, 1960) The work of McGregor entitled 'The Human Side of Enterprise' conducted a comparison of two sets of beliefs that differed about human nature and describes how these two led to two very different approaches on management and leadership. It is reported that the conventional approach 'Theory X' and the humanistic approach 'Theory Y" hold that the ordinary individual is lazy and non-motivated (Theory X).The first, more conventional approach, he would rather be directed than to be independent and will only work as hard as they are required to in order to avoid losing their work. This view holds that leaders must necessarily direct workers and control them to ensure the job is done properly. Motivation is derived from a system of rewards and punishments and those who fail to obey the rules are punished and those who do obey the rules receive rewards. Theory Y holds that human nature follows the course of leadership, if leadership is poor then the work quality and drive of workers to excel is also poor. Specifically stated is "Theory Y proposes that the work itself can be motivating and rewarding. People can become enthusiastic about their work and will support the team or organization's goals when these goals also meet their need. They can be trusted to put forth adequate effort and to complete their work without constant supervision if they are committed to these goals. Under the right conditions, the ordinary person can be imaginative, creative, and productive. Theory Y leaders need to remove obstacles, provide guidance and encourage growth. The extensive external controls of theory X are not necessary because people can exert self-control and self-direction under theory Y leadership." (Cherie and Gebrekida, 2005)

III. Motivation Theories

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Motivation theories include the theory of Maslow (1943; 1954) which is based on human needs and whom posits that "…a lower level need is prerequisite, or controls behavior until it is satisfied, and then the next higher need energizes and directs behavior. The hierarchy, from the lowest to the highest level,…

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