Like in any field that relies on cooperation between specialists, leadership plays a crucial part in nursing practice. A skilled leader can ensure a unit’s performance by distributing tasks and responsibilities, and maintaining morale and discipline. A poor leader allows tasks and responsibilities to overlap, interfering with the unit’s ability to accomplish its goals. As such, leadership is a significant field of research, and a variety of theories and styles of leadership have been described.
Authoritarian is one of such style of leadership, and although it is generally described as one of the less desirable styles, it is sometimes required in nursing practice. This style is defined by its reliance on directive behaviors, assigning employees to tasks and controlling how they perform those tasks with limited opportunities for creativity or improvisation (Huber, 2018). Research indicates that in most cases, task-focused styles such as the authoritarian style lead to worse outcomes than relationally-focused ones (Cummings et al., 2018). However, an exception to this pattern exists in the form of crisis situations where no time can be afforded for the discussion of strategies and arriving at a consensus.
For example, a leader in an intensive care unit can employ a democratic or transformative style throughout regular operation and to develop general strategies. However, during a code situation when a patient’s life is in danger, he or she would shift to giving out explicit orders to ensure the team’s efficiency and the best outcome for the patient. After the immediate danger is gone, the previous relation-oriented style is resumed, allowing broader unit policies to be decided through discussion. This example demonstrates the possibility of applying multiple leadership styles depending on the situation.
Huber, D. (2018). Leadership and nursing care management (6th ed.). Saint Louis, MO: Elsevier.
Cummings, G. G., Tate, K., Lee, S., Wong, C. A., Paananen, T., Micaroni, S. P. M., & Chatterjee, G. E. (2018). Leadership styles and outcome patterns for the nursing workforce and work environment: A systematic review. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 85, pp. 19-60. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2018.04.016