Nursing Leadership Styles (Part II): Democratic Leaders
An individual's leadership style refers to the manner in which (s)he leads. Three primary leadership styles exist on a continuum: authoritarian, democratic, and Laissez Faire. The intended purpose of this three-part essay is to further explore the various styles of leading. This particular article (part II) will examine the democratic style of leadership.
Glenda Bennett, a 56-year-old unit manager at a 600-bed county hospital located in a large city, usually arrives at work sometime before 10 o'clock every morning. She manages the 7th floor of the hospital, which is better known as the pediatrics unit. Since the morning meeting takes place daily at 10:30 a.m., she prefers to be at work at least 30 minutes beforehand to learn of any new issues before entering the meeting room.
Glenda has been a unit manager at the county hospital for approximately 7 years. Prior to that, she worked for 26 years as a floor nurse and house supervisor in a 24-bed rural critical access hospital in a sparsely populated part of the state. Glenda's personality is charismatic, and she has developed a reputation for being fair and honest. She gets along well with subordinate nursing staff, has an open-door policy, and always keeps them informed of any changes.
She strongly encourages floor nurses, patient care technicians, and other nursing staff to have a say in the decisions that affect the unit through one-on-one meetings, personal phone calls, suggestion box comments, informal votes, and all-staff meetings. If any problems arise, she gathers feedback and input from the employees prior to making any final decisions. Glenda is a staunch proponent of teamwork, high morale, and ensuring the nurses' satisfaction.
About seven years ago, when Glenda first became unit manager, the unit had high employee turnover rates. She met with each subordinate employee privately to gain insight and learn the reasons for the high attrition rates. Through the private meetings, she learned that understaffing, lack of supplies, and 24-hour visitation were the big issues that contributed to staff burnout. After she addressed these issues, the high employee turnover rates eased significantly.
The democratic leadership style allows subordinate employees to have more participation in the organization's decision-making process. Although the democratic leader maintains the final say, (s)he seeks information, ideas, and input from staff members before making decisions that will impact them. This is typically an effective style of leadership. People are more likely to excel in their positions and develop more skills when they feel empowered, and people are empowered when they are involved in the decision-making process (Fleming, n.d.).
Democratic leadership usually works well in healthcare settings due to the mixture of skill levels and educational backgrounds of the employees. However, this leadership style does have a couple of pitfalls. For instance, gathering everyone's input can be time-consuming. Also, the more aggressive staff members will give their feedback, while the more timid employees may never get the chance to make suggestions or offer input.Last edit by Joe V on Jul 4, '12
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TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse
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