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Nursing Leadership Styles (Part I): Authoritarian Leaders

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TheCommuter has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

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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 I) will examine the authoritarian style of leadership.

Nursing Leadership Styles (Part I): Authoritarian Leaders

Dee Waverly, age 59, arrives at her workplace, a 35-bed freestanding specialty hospital, promptly at seven o'clock every weekday morning. She started working here as a unit manager nearly 18 years ago, and after four years of reliable service, was promoted to chief nursing officer (CNO). She has been serving as the hospital's CNO for the past 14 years.

Although Dee has an even-tempered personality and generally gets along well with subordinate employees, she does not want her authority or decisions to be questioned. Staff members must refer to her as 'Ms. Waverly.' She makes every major decision that involves the operations of the nursing department and will not delegate any aspect of her decision-making, even if the choices would easily fall within the level of authority of the unit manager or house supervisors.

Dee expects that all subordinate employees will obey directives without openly questioning the rationales. She does not place a high value on creativity or innovation. She does not solicit input, ideas, or feedback from the floor nursing staff. The actions of the nursing department staff are controlled through rewards, punishments, written policies, and the completion of tasks.

The hospital has had a longstanding problem with retaining nursing staff. In fact, the floor nurse with the most seniority has been employed at the facility for a little more than three years. However, Dee is not really interested in exploring the reasons behind the high employee turnover rate in the nursing department. She says, "This is a good place to work. If these girls and guys don't like working here, they surely know where the door is."

The Authoritarian Leadership Style is characterized by a leader who makes all the decisions and passes the directives to subordinates who are expected to carry these out under very close supervision (Brennen, n.d.). Authoritarian leaders normally discourage subordinate employees from questioning the validity of any directives given.

In spite of its weaknesses, the authoritarian leadership style is well suited for certain environments such as the military, a prison, etc. (Brennen, n.d.). Other leadership styles simply would not work in these highly structured institutions. In those settings, in which the lives of people depend on others following orders, the authoritarian style is ideal (Brennan, n.d.).

The research shows that the authoritarian leadership style is preferable to a democratic one for the achievement of tasks (Brennan, n.d.). In summary, the authoritarian leadership style does have a role in certain types of organizations and can be employed to meet specific goals when time is of the essence.

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TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who 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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GitanoRN has 48 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in Trauma, ER, ICU, CCU, PACU, GI, Cardiology, OR.

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enlightening article, in which i would say that the authoritarian leadership used blindly by ms. waverly is a destructive weapon which in time will come to haunt her. therefore, i am known as being firm but fair in my line of work :cool:

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Multicollinearity has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Acute Care Psych, DNP Student.

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Under authoritarian leadership the strong nurses will leave. They will not feel respected and will not feel they can contribute their knowledge and expertise. Collaboration is nil. It will downwardly push staffing towards newer, less experienced nurses who question less and feel more vulnerable due to their newness.

At my former place of employment, under an authoritarian DON, the nurse with the most seniority had 9 months (after I left).

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TheCommuter has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

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Under authoritarian leadership the strong nurses will leave.
This is so true. In my opinion, authoritarian leadership works best in organizations where the overall educational level and skill level of the participants is low. Examples would be fast food restaurants, lower-end retail shops, jails, prisons, and so forth.

Authoritarian leadership is inappropriate in a healthcare setting.

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Nascar nurse has 25 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC & Hospice.

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This is the style my current "new" boss is using. Absolutely can't stand it and neither does most of the rest of our team. The word team is now just a joke - we're just little robots jumping when we are told to jump. I am trying deperately to stay professional but I can see me losing my cool in the not so distance future. I am not an idiot and have done nothing to deserve being treated like one.

Good article - can you give an tips based on your research as to how to best deal with this type of leadership? Except for this one problem, I love my job and don't really want to leave.

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TheCommuter has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

2 Followers; 228 Articles; 27,607 Posts; 318,954 Profile Views

Good article - can you give an tips based on your research as to how to best deal with this type of leadership? Except for this one problem, I love my job and don't really want to leave.
The only ways to avoid upsetting an authoritarian boss are to obey his/her orders, conform, and do not question his/her authority out in the open. I've also noticed that these types of bosses like for their egos to be stroked.

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Authoritarian leadership is inappropriate in a healthcare setting.

And it boggles my mind why so many of our healthcare settings( hospitals, clinics and LTC facilities) are lead this way.

Didn't they get the memo??

I'm looking forward to the next 2 chapters.

Edited by TheCommuter
quotation blocks

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Nascar nurse has 25 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC & Hospice.

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The only ways to avoid upsetting an authoritarian boss are to obey his/her orders, conform, and do not question his/her authority

Yikes - Well I'm in BIG trouble. This would not be a strong point for me. Uh Oh!

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all4health10 has 5 years experience and specializes in GERIATRIC CARE, END OF LIFE CARE.

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Nobody likes to have an authoritarian supervisor, but sometimes evil comes to me and I feel that it is needed many times. I have co-workers that once the clock reads 4pm, they can care less if the patients have pain or are falling, in their minds they are off. The truth is that they are being paid from 8 am to 430pm because they had a 30 minute lunch time.

Many people don't know how to be responsible, they need a baby-seater to do their job.

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krwrnbsn has 10 years experience.

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Yikes - Well I'm in BIG trouble. This would not be a strong point for me. Uh Oh!

I have an asst. nurse manager who was "acting" nurse manager for about 4 years. He/she still runs the show and tells the new nurse manager what to do. Needless to say I'm one of his/her least favorite people! It's a horrible environment and do not wish it on anyone.

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julliette2008 has 6 years experience and specializes in dementia and other mental health disorde.

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I think having someone like Dee is effective....but it has its downsides. In order to know what is really going on and to keep employee moral up, one has to take in suggestions of her subordinates. Being able to voice our concerns makes us subordinates feel like we have a say. On the other side of things having an authoritative supervisor is often needed. There should be a balance.

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1 Article; 154 Posts; 7,234 Profile Views

I have an asst. nurse manager who was "acting" nurse manager for about 4 years. He/she still runs the show and tells the new nurse manager what to do. Needless to say I'm one of his/her least favorite people! It's a horrible environment and do not wish it on anyone.

I have tho same set up. My LPN assistant was a manager before the policy changes to RNs only. She runs the floor. It's a power struggle for sure. Thank goodness it's only for a few more days. I ended up resigning. Totally agree- horrible hostile set up.

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