Servant Leadership Improves the Delivery of Nursing Practice and Health Care

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Nursing is often considered the “caring” profession; nurses truly serve their patients as well as their employers in some capacity. One of the best ways to improve the delivery of nursing practice and health care is for a nursing leader or manager to demonstrate the servant leadership model of nursing to his or her staff. By serving those he or she leads, the nursing manager can effectively model how other nurses should serve their patients.

Robert K. Greenleaf introduced the servant leadership philosophy in 1970 and defined servant leaders as “those who achieve results for their organizations by attending to the needs of those they serve.”

Why nurse servant leadership is valuable

In her nursing leadership development blog, Emerging RN Leader, Dr. Rose Sherman discusses the background and value of servant leadership in the nursing profession. She believes the philosophy is effective and valuable because it exemplifies caring leadership for those under a nurse leader or manager’s authority and builds trust among a nursing staff.

Nurse leaders who successfully demonstrate and apply the 10 characteristics of servant leadership in their organization facilitate higher nurse engagement and a healthier work environment:

  1. Active listening: Pays attention to the needs of staff and supports their decision-making.
  2. Empathy: Prioritizes understanding the needs of others and empathizing with them.
  3. Healing: Works to help staff resolve their problems, helps negotiate any conflicts that arise and develops a healing environment.
  4. Awareness: Exercises a high level of emotional intelligence and self-awareness; views situations from an integrated holistic viewpoint.
  5. Persuasion: Uses firm, personal persuasion rather than coercive power to influence others.
  6. Conceptualization: Sees the big picture — beyond daily operations of the individual unit or department — to help others build a personal vision for long-term goals.
  7. Foresight: Envisions the likely outcome of any situation and proactively endeavors to generate the best consequences.
  8. Stewardship: Uses resources and staff wisely, helping and serving others with no focus on their own rewards.
  9. Commitment to the growth of others: Views all staff equally, sees value in everyone and attempts to maximize the strengths of each staff member.
  10. Building community: Recognizes the value of staff experiencing a sense of community.

Nurse servant leadership also promotes a supportive team approach to nursing and encourages professional development among nurses.

edited by Kevin Phang

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