Leadership in Nursing Why it Matters and the Main Styles

While in a professional care environment, leadership in nursing is essential for the best patient outcomes. But why does it matter, exactly? And what are the main leadership styles in nursing? The answers provide a deeper understanding of how to create safe and practical help to those who need it, when they need it the most.

Why is Leadership in Nursing Important?

By its very nature, nurses are leaders. They have a role in leading teams, after graduating from an executive nurse leader program or another type of schooling, and bear responsibility for their actions as they relate to patient outcomes.

Even those who do not have the word leader in their job title are in a position of inspiring others. Plus, they have a shared vision of their role and how it helps others, regardless of where they work.

Strong leadership in nurses is vital, and here is a big reason why. Having great interpersonal skills is paramount to proper, safe bedside care, whether it is communication between any of the following:

  • Among nurses
  • Families of patients
  • Patients themselves
  • Other healthcare workers

Only if the professionals communicate well and address patients health problems can expect to make it as a leader in their profession. Plus, hospitals can get very busy, and if everyone is not working together, then it is easy to ineffectively use time, from duplicate testing to different workflows in different areas of the same building.

Furthermore, good leaders look at what is efficient, and what is less so, in their work processes. They want to improve on processes to not only help more people but also provide the best care possible for those who are in need.

It is these same leaders who can influence others on their teams to do more and be more effective in their jobs, day in and day out. All of which helps hospitals and other care environments operate at a high standard.

Leaders Work Together

Nurse executives, as well as those who provide direct bedside care to patients, and other nursing careers all work together with the same goal to provide quality healthcare. They all are called to leadership, with differing functions in their specific job roles.

After graduating from the executive nurse leader program from Baylor University, you can coordinate teams and assign tasks in the fulfilling role of Chief Nursing Executive or another nurse executive position. Finishing a Doctor of Nursing Practice – Executive Nurse Leadership (DNP-ENL) program gives you the opportunity to encourage positive outcomes in various care facilities.

Having the potential to improve the quality of life of someone with the work you do can make for a very rewarding career. It’s not a responsibility to take lightly but is absolutely a noble one.

Nurses help people. And in doing so, we receive the unmatched satisfaction of knowing that we have made a difference to patients and their families.”

– Dawn Marino, RN, BSN, HNB-BC


Lastly, the sign of a good leader is one who can change as their environment does so and is innovative. Only when they understand what the current need is, can they respond to it, from meeting new health concerns, such as the coronavirus, to communicating with new patients daily.

Leadership Styles in the Nursing Field

Nursing literature reveals different styles of leadership that applies to those who hold an executive nurse leader program or have other nursing credentials. Each of them can influence patient outcomes and organizations differently.

The main types are:

  • Transactional
  • Democratic
  • Laissez-faire
  • Authoritarian
  • Transformational

Below is an overview of each nursing leadership style.


Leaders with a transactional style focus on the work of those who follow their directions, with the goal to find faults and, in turn, better pathways for care.


This type of leadership puts the focus instead on overall organizational systems rather than the faults of individuals. Enabling staff participation in ways to improve systems is also important.


Meanwhile, laissez-fair nurse leadership refers to a hands-off approach. Often it is reactive rather than planning to combat issues in advance, and the leader hands over power to the followers. It could be a style you learn in an executive nurse leader program, along with the other methods mentioned here.


This style is marked by a leader who makes the decisions without asking staff for their input. This view equates power with knowledge, which is why the team does not receive all the information. In emergencies, where there is little time for conversation, this type of nursing leadership can work well.


With a focus on inspiration, transformational leadership is all about motivating followers with a shared vision for what is ahead. Often these leaders explain how doing what is best for the organization is more important than personal interests.

Which Type of Leadership is Best in Nursing?

The short answer is that there is no one “best” style. Instead, leaders must adjust to different situations to be successful at work. The brightest leaders blend styles according to the current organization they work within and based on patient needs, as well as what’s best for the team.

As you will learn while pursuing an executive nurse leader program, there are pros and cons to each leadership style, and what is among the most important things is effective decision making. Plus, re-evaluate the process regularly to see what is working and what is not, then adjust activities as needed for optimal quality and safety.

Final Words on Leadership in Nursing

Becoming a strong leader takes dedication and time, whether you are a nurse in emergency care or working in an administrative or management role. Being able to lead by example and motivate others, as well as having a positive impact on patients makes being a nurse an admirable career.

Being able to problem solve, think creatively, and set a team on a clear path can make you a highly valued leader. Remember to be true to yourself and be proud of the work you do to help others so selflessly.



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