Reflection Paper on Leadership

Leadership is rightly considered as one of the critical factors of success in healthcare organizations. “A decade into the 21st century it is becoming increasingly apparent that effective leadership is an essential element in organizations and professional bodies to ensure that they maximize the extent to which they are able to achieve their strategic objectives”. Not surprisingly, nurses are expected to develop leadership proficiency as the baseline for pursuing excellence in their profession and the discipline of nursing. However, even the best nurse cannot become an outstanding leader without being able to critically evaluate his or her leadership strengths. The purpose of the present task is to reflect on professional leadership strengths and weaknesses and identify areas for future improvement. The results of the current analysis suggest that teamwork, communication, and human resource management are likely to become the primary goals for future improvements in nursing leadership.

With the growing awareness of leadership as the critical attribute of excellence in the discipline of nursing, more leaders are willing to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Numerous methodologies and tools are available to nurse practitioners in their striving to better understand their leadership capacity and set the pace for continuous leadership improvement. I can say with confidence that the results of this leadership assessment have not been very surprising to me. I already knew that my leadership skills and philosophy were far from perfect. However, in the process of assessing my leadership skills, I have finally managed to uncover the most essential strengths and weaknesses and delineate strategies for further improvement.

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In a nutshell, as I completed the strength-based leadership test, I was pleased to learn that my main leadership themes included Achiever, Consistency, Responsibility, and Restorative. More specifically, as an Achiever, I was found to be a hard worker and having a great deal of stamina for persistence and excellence in leadership actions. Consistency is intricately linked to fairness which, in the words of Rath and Conchie, implies that I am focused on treating people equally and fairly, by setting explicit rules and comprehensive standards. As a leader, I also take a great deal of responsibility for everything I say or do. I am honesty and loyalty-oriented. Finally, as a leader strong in the restorative theme, I am particularly skillful at determining the roots of problems and solving them consistently.

Overall, my leadership has many strengths, all of which fall under the domain of executing. However, I am also good at strategic thinking. According to Rath and Conchie, strategically-oriented leaders can find alternative solutions to the most typical problems quite quickly. They are also fast at determining the key attributes and patterns of the most problematic phenomena and develop effective strategies to deal with them. I should note that, as a leader, I have learned that being a leader is synonymous to being a visionary. Leaders who are strong at vision setting and strategic decision making are better equipped for articulating a vision that motivates, setting an agenda for action, seeing possibilities where they seem to be absent, and ensuring that their followers are committed to follow a common strategic path. However, I also know that setting a vision is not everything. It is just a starting point in effective leadership. As a leader, I should be prepared to review this vision on a day-to-day basis and adjust it to the changing demands of the nursing field, while preserving our commitment to the eternal values and standards of practice, including ethical integrity, sensitivity to follower needs, cultural competence, and moral courage.

These are the elements, which make up my leadership philosophy. As a leader who looks far into the future, I cherish the relevance of ethics, morality, and cultural competence as the foundational components of effective leadership. To begin with, I believe in the critical importance of ethical integrity in nursing leadership. According to Carroll, it means that a nurse leader acts in accordance with the basic standards of ethics in nursing care, while irradiating credibility and trustworthiness. It also implies that the leader pursues honesty, transparency, and openness in his or her relationships with followers. My leadership philosophy is that even the least motivated followers can develop a strong commitment to the vision and mission proposed by a leader, if they consider that leader to be principled, ethical, and truthful. I also believe that a leader cannot persuade his or her followers to act ethically, unless he or she sets a personal example of ethical integrity, which is further associated with moral courage. I am strongly committed to moral courage as an antecedent of effective nursing leadership. I agree with Bjarson and LaSala who say that moral courage means being brave enough to stand up to the basic ethical and patient-centered principles in situations, which threaten their relevance and integrity. I am confident that nurses must have enough courage not to give up their ethical and moral principles, even when they think it could benefit them. Here, cultural competence also matters. With the growing diversity of patient values and beliefs, an effective nurse leader must be ready to respect all persons equally, taking into account their cultural preferences and culture-mediated health beliefs. As a leader, I teach my followers how to work with multicultural patients and avoid any cultural misunderstandings in their daily encounters with clients. What I need to do is providing greater support to followers at times of crises. This seems to be just one of the many lessons I have learned in this course.

Basically, I have learned three important lessons about leadership. These lessons will keep shaping the direction of my future leadership actions. First, leadership is theory-based. That is, it is wrong to believe that leadership is a unique talent that does not require a theoretical power base. Pilkington confirms that nursing theories can become a foundation for developing a perfect model of leadership for nurses. The knowledge, spirit, and valuable experiences shared by nurse theorists can energize contemporary leaders and enrich their intellect and visionary thinking. Thus, in their pursuit of excellence, nurse leaders should not neglect an opportunity to explore the value of nursing theories and the contribution they can make to their effectiveness as leaders.

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Second, in the 21st century, nurse leaders find it much harder to use the same leadership theory and model in all organizational situations. The demands of the nursing profession as well as the context in which nurses operate change too quickly to render any leadership philosophy as universally acceptable. This is why O’Reilly says that contemporary nurses operate in the atmosphere of complexity and chaos. I have learned that flexibility is the defining attribute of a successful nursing leader. Leaders should be ready to shift from one model to another, as the conditions of organizational performance change. Third, I have realized that leadership has nothing to do with the formal statement of some distant goals. As Makaroff et al. suggest, effective leadership is a day-to-day expression and reinforcement of a leader’s commitment to the people, who agree to follow his or her path. That is, leadership is a hard, daily work that requires persistence, perseverance, trust, and confidence in one’s ability to be an effective leader. It is also one’s ability to address the existing leadership weaknesses and overcoming barriers to becoming more flexible in daily interactions with followers.

Despite a mixture of strengths that define my leadership, numerous areas require more work. First, I should enhance my team-building capacity and improve my communication skills. Effective communication is one of the core factors behind effective leader-follower relationships. What I miss is being able to reach an agreement with all or most followers, as we are struggling to solve the most challenging issues in our daily work. I realize that leadership acts as a two-way street. It is a dynamic reciprocal process that involves active discussions between those who lead and those who follow. Unfortunately, I still find it difficult to persuade followers that they should follow the recommended path. Second, I am still weak at managing the human side of leadership. Carroll says that a leader should be competent at empowering followers, working collaboratively with each of them, and promoting the value of diversity. I will address the existing weaknesses, by engaging in leadership education and training courses, as well as assuming greater responsibility in all leadership activities to gain more expertise and refine my knowledge and skills.

To conclude, leadership is a complex phenomenon. It has numerous dimensions and facets. I have learned several important lessons, and I am ready to use them in practice. It appears that flexibility is one of the key determinants of leadership success. Contemporary conditions of organizational performance are too changeable and unpredictable to render any single leadership theory as universally effective. I will try to engage in leadership education and training classes to upgrade my leadership skills, minimize weaknesses and reinforce my leadership strengths.