Leadership Theories, Styles, and Application (Nursing Essay Sample)

The Nursing Practice

From time to time, within the nursing practice, different situations present themselves, and they require some level of leadership intervention. As such, each situation calls for the appropriate leadership style to be applied in order to achieve the desired outcome. Choosing the appropriate leadership style depends on the situation being addressed and the environment as well as the people involved (Marquis & Huston, 2009).

In addition, the personal style that the leadership style will exhibit in tackling the situation is essential in determining its success. This essay will discuss three different situations that may occur in the nursing practice, an appropriate leadership style for handling the situation that can be applied, and for each, the tenets, pros, and cons of the leadership style.

Situation One: Leadership and Patient Outcomes

Just like any other institution, a medical institution may be faced with numerous strategic issues within and outside the facility. Some of these issues may not be directly related to health care activities conducted in the clinical setting but may still end up affecting the patient care outcomes. As an example, one can consider a medical facility that faces pending economic recession, upcoming retirements of some of the staff, forecasted workforce shortages as well as stressful working environments. This situation is to be met with an urgent response to avoid a decline in patient care outcomes, which may only be achieved by good leadership.

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People Involved

The managerial staff of the medical facility is responsible for handling the affairs mentioned above. However, dealing with this situation requires efforts of all the nursing fraternity working together to maintain and possibly improve the patient care outcomes. Therefore, the efforts of the managerial staff are meant to influence and to direct the activities of the rest of the staff. Their work together will ascertain that the positive results are yielded. As such, employment of the appropriate leadership strategy is key since there exists a positive relationship between leadership and patient outcomes (Scott & Caress, 2005).

Appropriate Leadership Style: Transformational Leadership

This type of leadership advocates that leaders adopt an idealized way of influencing their subjects as opposed to giving instructions. It involves building trust and gaining trust as well as respect from subordinates. It guns for a leader to lead by example towards engendering new ideas and setting goals by means of inspirational motivation. This type of leadership works best in an organizational environment that is faced with difficulties. It builds an intellectually stimulated environment among the staff through effective communication.

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How It Applies to the Situation

Given the difficulties the medical facilities face, transformational leadership would prove to be appropriate. Motivational inspiration would go a long way to relax the stressful work conditions among the employees. The new ideas that would be developed by this type of a leader being in the managerial board will devise new policies that will help in dealing with the shortages as well as the adverse economic conditions. As a leadership style, transformational leadership focuses on bringing revolutionary change by instilling commitment and loyalty to the medical facility’s vision, which it needs badly (Howieson & Thiagarajah, 2011). In addition, it offers mutual simulations that somewhat convert subordinates into leaders whose ideas are welcomed.


Transformational leadership guarantees effective communication of visions and ideas to subordinates, thereby motivating them to see the bigger picture when dealing with situations.


Transformational leadership may create harsh conditions such as unreasonable deadlines and long working hours, which might cause the subordinates to lose motivation.

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Situation Two: Leadership and Delegation

The nursing practice may prove to be very demanding given a large number of patients with varied needs. The practice also demands a high level of sensitivity as the lives of many patients depend on the type of decisions made in the course of the practice (Stanley, 2008). Due to this, situations may arise where a medical practitioner may be required to attend to different patients with varying needs at the same time. For example, a patient, who needs to be discharged through the removal of their Intravenous (IV) catheters, may require the services of their original doctor who at the same time may be required in the emergency room to attend to a very sick patient. This
necessitates the need to delegate this responsibility to another medical practitioner to furnish a quick discharge of this patient.

People Involved

Practitioners within the clinical setting possess distinguished competencies in the field of medicine. A registered nurse is the one charged with the responsibility of attending to patients receiving nursing care. This registered nurse was urgently required in the emergency room and, therefore, she sought to employ the services of one of the available nursing assistants. Most nursing assistants are responsible for attending to the daily needs of patients. However, in recent nursing developments, some nursing assistants are trained to provide basic medical care services to patients in the care unit such as cleaning wounds and facilitating discharge of patients.

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Appropriate Leadership Style: Autocratic Leadership

This leadership style requires a leader to give out specific instructions to a subordinate. It dictates that leaders should be well acquainted with the competencies of their subordinates. In addition, it prescribes that any task given to a subordinate should be within their job description. Employing this leadership style needs minimal supervision but requires a leader to ascertain that the task is duly completed in the correct manner. Autocratic leadership works best in a highly structured environment with a routine operation like hospitals, for example.

How it Applies to the Situation

Adopting this type of leadership would guarantee apposite use of patient care models. In the above-mentioned situation, the registered nurse will ensure that any individual, to whom the task of discontinuing the catheters is delegated, possesses the required competencies and that the task is within their job description. In addition, the registered nurse would furnish the nursing assistant with adequate information regarding the patient as well as proper instructions on how to perform the task. In doing so, the clinical delegation activity would have been done to serve the best interests of the patient and not merely because of the emergency.


This type of leadership produces positive results since the task is under strict instruction. In this situation, greater patient care outcomes would be observed.


This leadership style lacks the human touch as subordinates are turned into a ‘machines’. In this case, the nursing assistants may be agitated since the registered nurses make them do as they wish, and therefore, their work may become monotonous.

Situation Three: Leadership and Moral Obligations

Modern clinical environments present very complex working conditions. Due to this, complex situations may arise, creating conflict in value medical care and potential moral distress. This presents itself where medical practitioners have a misaligned understanding between their commitment to the medical facility and their obligations to their patients. This conflict may eventually lead to stress among patient care providers and ultimately cause futile treatment of patients (Huber, 2013). In cases where such situations are experienced, an appropriate leadership style is necessary to facilitate patient comfort and relieved suffering, thereby enhancing the organization’s reputation.

People Involved

The people involved in this case include the management of the medical facility as well as the medical staff. The management is charged with ensuring that the medical staff performs their tasks according to the protocols of the organization. Other parties of interest such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) are involved in ascertaining that all clinical facilities offer medical services that meet the required standards. They also ensure that every individual practicing medicine is certified and he/she adheres to the policies and procedures of the practice.

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Appropriate Leadership Style: Bureaucratic Leadership

It is a model of leadership that defines the rules that need to be followed. Leaders follow these rules by example and, as such, ensure that their subordinates do the same. The set out procedure is to be followed precisely. It is appropriate for highly regulated and administrative institutions such as hospitals, which involves tasks that carry serious risks if not performed properly. It proves useful in supervising subordinates who execute routine tasks.

How it Applies to the Situation

In the clinical setting, nurses operate agents of the medical care systems for the benefit of the patients, the organization, and the nurses themselves. They also profit from the nurses’ act of moral obligation. Employing this type of leadership will ensure that subordinates adhere to the rule and procedure of these acts as well as those of the medical institution. In doing so, they will conform to the policy of performing their moral obligations to their patients as put out by the administration and nursing bodies such as ANA. Therefore, the conflict of moral obligations and commitment to the organization will be eliminated.


Bureaucratic leadership has defined boundaries that guarantee control of the outcomes.


This type of leadership proves ineffective in a situation that requires flexibility and innovation.


In reference to the above, the clinical setting operates in a complex manner, which gives rise to intricate issues in the course of practice. These include issues of patient outcomes, delegation, and moral obligations. It is evident that good and appropriate leadership is paramount in the nursing practice to promote health of the patients. Therefore, given the complexities that present themselves in the nursing practice, the suitable type of leadership should be identified and implemented considering its principle, the situational environment, and the people involved. Nevertheless, great care should be employed to shun the misuse of the leadership position to avert failure.

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