Do You Have a Leader or Boss?

Leadership is a critical factor in restructuring, and giving life and energy to developing human resources and performance improvement plans. Traditional management, the boss, focuses on command and control. The innovative and pioneering manager, the leader, focuses on the ever-changing needs of coordination and the orchestrated participation of various department managers, experts, programs, and staff, for effective decision-making. As nurses, we should continue to grow and develop, and learn to differentiate between “boss” and “leader/manager”.

There are many leadership styles and models, all of which examine the relationship between those styles, and effectiveness. But no single leadership style is correct all the time; nurse managers must be flexible, able to adapt and change to the situation at hand. People who share a common direction, and sense of community, can get where they’re going quicker and more easily because they are traveling on the strength of one another. Managers have the responsibility to motivate employees so their behaviors contribute to achieving organizational objectives. Stella Henry, RN, BS, is co-founder and director of Vista Del Sol, a long-term care center in Culver City, California, where she manages and supervises more than 60 nurses. Stella has this to say about the difference between a leader and a boss, “A leader has to inspire loyalty, whereas a boss can (not always), be someone who is either feared or ignored as much as possible. A good leader sees people as individuals and is interested in their growth, and is as interested in the welfare of the person as well as that of the establishment.”

Leaders envision, and rely on their own intuition, while bosses rely on computer printouts, objectivity, and rationality, and while bosses project power over people, leaders project power with people. Richard Ashley, in Where Have All the Leaders Gone states, “leadership of any kind requires the consent of the led and often that consent must be worked for and earned.” Leaders make constructive use of introspection, the elusive behavior that is the examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings. Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, “Until you have been able to face the truth about yourself you cannot be really sympathetic or understanding in regard to what happens to other people.” In The Many Faces of Good Nursing Leadership, Mary Anderson comments, “One attribute of leadership is to focus on the issues. A leader must be able to discern between the issues and the personalities at hand.”

Carol Huston, MSN, MPA, DPA, Professor at the School of Nursing at California State University, Chico, and on the Board of Directors of Sigma Theta Tau International, defines a leader as a person who has the ability to influence others to accomplish goals. The leader does this by visionary thinking, empowering followers, and identifying common values. Unlike a manager who has formal, legitimate power by virtue of an assigned position in an organization, a leader may not have a formal title or any formal authority to direct others. Instead, individuals follow a leader by choice. Professor Huston comments that the newest thinking suggests that all nurses are leaders and managers at some level, and that the nursing role requires both skills. Because rapid, dramatic change will continue in nursing and the healthcare industry, it has grown increasingly important for nurses to develop and demonstrate skill in both leadership and management.

As with all relationships, communication is key to effective leadership. Webster’s defines communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals. It is transmitting information so that it is satisfactorily received and understood. Feedback and follow-up are important tools in the communication process, to verify that the message was accurately received. Eleanor Roosevelt exemplified the qualities of a great leader, and became a great role model for women, and all those who aspire to become influential leaders. Robin Gerber, a senior scholar at the Academy of Leadership, University of Maryland, in her book, Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way, writes, “Communicating effectively does not come naturally to every leader. Effective communications require savviness about choosing the time, place, and audience, and careful preparation to maximize the opportunity to motivate people.” Ms. Gerber says leadership depends on your willingness and ability to communicate your vision to others.

A leader also never stops learning about self and others, and about the world, opening his or herself up to all possibilities and experiences. Eleanor Roosevelt believed that “leaders who teach translate their learning in ways that motivate others. They turn their experiences outward in service to their vision. They model through words and actions the leadership they have learned and the leadership they hope to see in others” ( Gerber, 2002).

Permission to quote obtained from:

Stella Henry
Carol Huston

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