[Infographic] The Impact of Nursing Leadership Styles on Patient Outcomes

Between declining reimbursement, new incentive programs, and keeping pace with the competitive industry of healthcare, healthcare managers and leaders are in a constant struggle to become more efficient and effective. Healthcare is becoming increasingly complex, and juggling these modern day challenges while still being a good leader and providing effective care for patients can be challenging to say the least.

Although healthcare today presents plenty of unique challenges towards providing quality care, it can be easy to take for granted how healthcare leadership has always directly impacted patients’ experiences and outcomes. As in any industry, effective management can make the difference between good or poor performance and service.

Leadership Styles and the Patient Experience

Recent research illustrated in the infographic below reveals that this holds true in healthcare as well. For example, different styles of nursing leadership have been demonstrated to substantially affect rates of patient satisfaction, medication errors, and even patient mortality. 

With nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) to the 2013 HealthLeaders Media Patient Experience Leadership Survey expecting to focus on patient experience training and education over the next three years, the patient experience is clearly a priority. 

While there is no one-size-fits-all leadership style guaranteed to work for every situation and organization, it helps to recognize the fundamental differences between management styles, and how they can impact your team and patients alike.

The Five Key Leadership Styles

Transactional LeaderA transactional leader is focused on ensuring that staff follows their lead by offering rewards and punishments based on compliance.

These individuals are at their best when assessing staff performance and completing urgent projects requiring a keen eye to detail. For new or inexperienced staff, a transactional leader can be ideal for reinforcing how to complete unfamiliar tasks with accuracy and consistency.


Transformational LeaderAccording to research, transformational leaders are viewed most favorably among nursing staff due to their ability to inspire and motivate their teams beyond self-interest. These managers are quick to question tradition and invite creative solutions to solve problems more effectively.

More than any other leadership style, transformational leaders adopt a mentality of servitude towards patients and staff with the higher purpose of achieving better patient care – and it shows with studies reflecting reduced rates of medication errors and patient mortality.


Democratic LeadershipIf your practice is struggling with communication or adopting new processes, such as when implementing an EHR, democratic leadership can be an effective means of soliciting accountability and feedback from your team.

This approach emphasizes responsibility among each member of your team by encouraging open communication and participation among all staff. These administrators are more interested in improving a system than in finding particular flaws among individuals.


Authoritarian LeadershipThe last two categories, authoritarian and laissez-faire, are least favorable according to research of nursing leaders. Authoritarian leaders focus on absolute command of their staff and tend to foster a culture of blame.

However, they can excel in emergency situations when their decisiveness serves the team best.


Laissez-Faire LeadershipFinally, laissez-faire leaders are hands-off managers who prefer to let staff operate independently. While staff can benefit with room to exercise independence, this approach is most often associated with stagnation and inexperienced management.



How Nursing Leadership Styles Can Impact Patient Outcomes and Organizational Performance

These five categories of leadership can help us understand how leaders’ behavior can impact a medical practice’s performance, but a good manager recognizes when each style is necessary in order to best serve their patients.


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