5 Leadership Styles in Healthcare

Leadership matters. It is an indisputable fact that people in leadership roles find themselves balancing hefty loads of both power and responsibility. Their influence can make or break a healthcare organization’s future. Healthcare leaders not only bring a variety of experience, education, and training to the positions they hold in long-term care facilities and hospitals; they also arrive with unique leadership styles.

A great leader should have one overarching goal in mind: to elevate and empower their facilities to achieve long-term success. And as true with many scenarios in life, there is more than one way to achieve that goal. In addition to toting along their unique experiences and skills, today's healthcare leaders adopt a variety of approaches to leading their teams.

Before we review specific leadership styles, let's take a moment to discuss a surefire approach that can be incorporated into any leadership model, leading by example. When a leader's actions help to shape an environment based on honesty, integrity, and respect, his/her employees will be encouraged to follow suit. When ethics and fair decisions mark a leader's style, these timeless traits will seep into the organization's core. Finally, when a leader upholds the "norm" standards of excellence in workforce relations and patient care, it’s likely that the staff will, too.

Now, let's look at the benefits as well as the disadvantages of five specific leadership styles.

  • Authoritarian Leadership
    Marked by a one-person-show approach that provides a chain of command, consistent guidelines, and offers a concise decision-making process, this leadership style can squash creativity and innovation and incite rebellion due to its strict nature.
  • Participative Leadership
    The democratic theory is the backbone of this approach that both thrives on and relies on a motivated, engaged spirit of teamwork and collaboration. The downside? Decisions can be time-consuming, communication can falter, and the high level of transparency can result in security issues.
  • “Laissez-Faire” or Delegative Leadership
    Labeled also as a "hands-off" approach, this style delegates responsibility to initiative-taking, competent, engaged individuals who work well with little direction or supervision. However, opposing views may interfere with productivity, and issues of who is in charge may arise.
  • Transformational Leadership
    This type of leadership requires a leader to possess a high level of emotional intelligence, as that will fuel the leader's use of motivation and inspiration to bring out the best in his/her employees. But it also requires constant encouragement and consistent feedback as well as an "onboard" agreement with employees, all of which can put a strain on a leader's time.
  • Servant Leadership
    Commitment to a team's needs is the hallmark of a servant leader. Their motivation to lead often springs from a place of altruism and an intense desire to serve a greater purpose. Teams lacking in performance capabilities or requiring more significant direction may not fare well under this leadership style.

Knowing when and how to transition from one approach to another can help to set a leader, and their organization, up for long-term success.


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