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Leadership Potential and Development Back to Course Index




Leadership and Potential Development



Course Description


This course is designed to explore three major leadership styles and discuss the pros and cons of each. Focus will be placed on how to incorporate portions of each style, in order to be a more effective leader.  The legendary art of leadership and creating a Maslow Conscious Environment will also be discussed. This course will also suggest some simple Morale Boosting ideas that are sure to keep nursing personnel enthusiastic and excited about coming to work.


Course Objectives


Upon completion of this course the student will have an overall view of the three major leadership styles, and be able to discuss how incorporating the best of each style into one, will maximize their effectiveness.  The student will also be able to explain what the Legendary Art of Leadership means and give examples of how to achieve these goals. The student will also be able to list and define 3 necessary requirements to assuring that a Maslow Conscious Environment has been created and maintained. Finally, the student will be able to describe 3 specific Morale Booster ideas and discuss the benefit of incorporating these ideas into their department. 



Leadership Styles


The Autocrat


The Autocratic leader is someone who usually needs to dominate other team-members. Their approach is often a unilateral one, and they are most likely attempting to achieve a single goal or objective. This approach to leadership generally results in passive resistance from team-members and in order to get things done, requires continual pressure and direction from the leader. Generally, an authoritarian approach is not a good way to get the best performance from a team. The Autocratic approach is sometimes confused with the yelling and demeaning approach that the abusive” leader would resort to. There are, however, some instances where an autocratic style of leadership may not only be necessary, but actually the most appropriate for a given situation. These are usually situations that call for urgent or quick action. Because most people are familiar with autocratic leadership, they have less trouble adapting to this style. In stressful situations (such as a JCAHO survey), staff may prefer an autocratic approach.


The Democrat


The Democratic leader uses a team approach to make decisions. Although they make the final decision, they will first involve at least one or more team members to be part of the decision making process. A good Democratic leader is one who encourages staff participation, is empowering and supportive, but must be careful not to lose site of the fact that he/she is still ultimately responsible for the final outcome. The Democratic leader is happy to see staff members collaborate, and is willing to accept that outcomes may turn out different then originally planned. One drawback to the Democratic leadership style is that the leader is sometimes viewed as someone who cannot make a decision on his/her own. Though most team members will have respect for this type of leader, not everyone will view them as a “true” leader. Another drawback to this leadership style is that many discussions, emails and meetings are usually required before a decision that has group consensus is made.




The Laissez-Faire supervisor exercises very little control over his/her staff members. This type of leadership essentially leaves all of the decision making to those who will be affected most. This leadership style works very well when dealing with staff members who are committed, motivated and able to analyze a situation properly. Once the Laissez-Faire supervisor has established that staff members are high functioning, it is often best to step back and let them get busy with the task at hand. This type of leadership also allows for delegation of tasks and can also empower staff to achieve their goals.


Although independence and decision making is relinquished to staff members, using this style of leadership makes jumping back into a failing process very difficult. Interfering in the middle of a task or ongoing project can cause resentment, and an overall lack of trust on the part of staff members.



Incorporation of Leadership Styles


Although the Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez-Faire styles of leadership all have their own uniqueness, the ability to incorporate all of them into a supervisory or managerial role can be truly beneficial. Determinates that need to be considered in deciding which style is appropriate for a given situation must include the type of task (structured, unstructured, level of difficulty to attain), the timeframe to achieve results, the relationship between yourself and the team members and any internal conflicts or potential stumbling blocks. The following are just a few examples of how a combination of these roles will enhance one’s leadership ability.


1.  Informing your staff that (by a stated deadline) a specific policy must be developed for a new unit practice (Autocratic). You ask for a couple of volunteers to form a team or committee to work on the development of this new policy (Democratic). You then delegate to some of the team members, specific tasks to assure success (Laissez-Faire).


2. You need to have 4 patient’s charts audited by the end of the day (Autocratic). You ask the group, who would have the most time to accomplish this task. (Democratic). Although you reiterate the time frame, (Autocratic) you leave the audit forms on a clip board for whoever the staff decides will have the most time to complete the task (Laissez-Faire).


3. You inform the staff that the freezers need to be defrosted immediately, as the health department will be visiting in the a couple of hours (Autocratic). You have a group discussion about what to do with the refrigerated items while the defrosting is taking place (Democratic). The decision as to whether a staff members does the defrosting or a housekeeper is called is left up to the team members. (Laissez-Faire).


4. The Joint Commission is coming in one month, and there must not be any expired meds in the unit (Autocratic). Who would like to take on this challenge? (Democratic). If you think checking the meds once a day is too frequent, I will leave the time frame to you. (Laissez-Faire)


The Legendary Art of Leadership


Leaders Create Vision


A very easy way to understand what Vision means is to liken it to a vacation. When planning a vacation, one the sets a destination, envisions the arrival, looks into the setting, checks the climate, learns about the culture and the people they will be meeting, looks for new experiences and explorations while they are there. Creating a vision is the work place is a very similar process for a leader.  A leader also anticipates a new arrival at an unfamiliar setting. They look at the setting and climate of the of the place and people they intend to lead, they realize that they will be probably treading in unfamiliar territory, but in doing so they know that they will be creating excitement and enthusiasm.


Leaders Create Climates


Dreams and visions are very exciting and can only be achieved when the team members are knowledgeable, committed and involved in the decision making process. Leaders must earn the trust of the team members by encouraging them to speak the truth and challenge ideas. Hearing the truth is not always easy for a leader, but in order to create a positive climate in the work force, a true leader is must be able to be willing to deal with some rough edges in order to achieve true authenticity in the climate.


Leaders Create Conflict


Making sure things stay Status Quo is not the goal of a good leader. Stirring things up in a positive and productive manner is more the trait of a leader. Being able to ask questions, and challenge the old way of doing things will not only show strength in character, but will also encourage participation from team members to make change. Conflict, which is so often connected to the word resolution, does not have to be a negative term. Conflict engaging strategies can be as simple as promoting change or creating a new process.


Leaders Create Change


As the leader, sometimes just opening the window to change is all team members need to create a new future. Change means movement, movement means friction, friction creates energy and energy creates enthusiasm. This type of positive energy in the work place leads to great ideas and concepts. In addition it encourages the team members to work together to achieve their goals. As the leader support and empower your team members to make healthy change. Realize however, that stirring away from the Status-Quo can require a small safety net as some conflict is bound to occur.


Leaders Create LEADERS


Great leaders come from great team members. Coaching and mentoring are often words associated with the creation of a leader. It is up to current leaders to see the potential in team members, reach into the crowd and groom potential leaders. Mentoring a team member takes great commitment from the leader and requires not only guidance and direction, but also the ability to open doors and provide opportunities. The ultimate goal is to create a leader who will head off in a different direction, and carve out new ideas and pathways.  


General Differences between Leaders and the Boss






Penalize/Give Consequences

Say “How

Say “Because”




Have a bottom line

Give Rationale

Are “Just doing thier job”




Traits of a Good Leader











Common Sense









Tips for a Good Leader


*     You have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately.

*     Build strong relationships based on trust and respect.

*     Listen to what is not being said.

*     If firmness is required, administer it fairly.



Creating a “Maslow Conscious” Environment


Nurses are very familiar with Maslows Hierarchy when it comes to patient care, but dont usually think of how this hierarchy can affect themselves in the work place. Having a Maslow Conscious environment is the first start to improving recruitment, retention, morale and teamwork.


PHYSICAL -In a Maslow Conscious environment, having adequate staffing, limiting registry use, assuring that there is always break coverage and not demanding that nurses stay extra hours to cover shifts will create an environment where nurses thrive. In addition, nurses will be more energetic, productive and patient when workloads are demanding.


SAFETY  -In a Maslow Conscious environment, providing safety with adequate nursing and ancillary assistance will create an environment where nurses truly feel supported. If a unit that normally requires 4 nurses only has 3 available, add an ancillary person (aide, secretary, transporter) to help balance the load.  Make sure that these short days are the exception and do not become the rule. Also assuring that all necessary protective devices are available and that all equipment is in good working order will help in assuring that the environment is safe.


LOVE -In a Maslow Conscious environment, feeling as if one belongs is how this need is met in the work force. Welcome boards, inviting the new nurse to lunch with the gang, joining groups, committees and teams to have an improved impact on patient care, can help meet this need.


SELF ESTEEM -In a Maslow Conscious environment nurses feel validated, autonomous and truly as if they are the backbone to the success of the department. As the supervisor, verbalizations of a job well done, and the occasional : Morale Booster will help to assure that your environment, is filled with personnel who have great self-esteem.


SELF-ACTUALIZATION -In a Maslow Conscious environment self-actualized nurses will not only provides high quality patient care, but also will assure that your entire organization finds substantial value. Your contribution to create an arena of self-actualization is a simple as setting a high standard for performance, encourage and support innovative thinking and new ideas. Most importantly Empower your staff to achieve their goals.