Interview a health care leader of your choosing. Discuss topics related to leadership style and the roles and responsibilities of leadership and management.
Health Care Leader Interview
This interview involved an Associate Nurse Manager who has been in the position for three years. The purpose of the interview is to identify the roles and responsibilities of nurse leaders in healthcare organizations, and to get insight on the general nurse leadership position experience.
Me: Could you briefly share about your background and the role you have today?
KC: I have been a general nurse for the past 20 years. Three years ago, I received a promotion to become an Associate Nurse Manager at Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC), a position I hold to date. As an Associate Nurse Manager, I am in charge of the primary care clinic at VAMC which handles 20 primary care teams. I am directly answerable to the Director of Nursing and Chief Nursing Officer at the clinic. I holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, and has also pursued my masters. I am a Registered Nurse (RN) as per the nursing requirements in the state.
Me: How would you describe a leader?
KC: I think of a leader as somebody who can be able to influence others towards a particular course or change. The most important aspect of being a leader is the ability to influence others and to make them agree with you or to make them focus on accomplishment of particular goals. Leaders identify goals and visions and then inspire others to work towards accomplishing them. Apart from developing visions, leaders must be able to take up challenges that comes along the way. An important part of this process lies in the ability to solve problems. As a leader, you cannot run away from problems, but rather confront them with amicable solutions. As an Associate Nurse Manager, I have to deal with challenges on a daily basis at the clinic.
Me: What are important qualities or characteristics of leaders?
KC: leaders have certain unique characteristics which set them apart from the rest of the crowd. These characteristics are easily notable. To start with, leaders are able to solve complex problems. When a particular problem arise, leaders are always in the forefront in trying to develop a simple solution to it, irrespective of whether they are in a leadership position. Another important characteristic is that they are goal-oriented. Leaders work by identifying goals and working towards accomplishment of the goals. In order to influence others, leaders should have good communication skills. This is both written and oral communication skills. Interpersonal skills are also crucial to leaders. This involves the ability to establish and maintain good relationships with staff of all levels in the clinic, from top management to those in lower levels. A leader is also a person who is results driven. A good leader is confident. This helps gain trust and influence.
Me: What is your personal philosophy of leadership?
KC: I believe in transformational leadership. [Transformational leadership involves influencing employees towards accepting your goals or those of the organization and working towards their accomplishment with passion (Marshall & Marshall, E. S., 2011)]. Transformational leaders identify a vision which is in line with the organization’s needs, and encourage employees to establish goals. They also promote the relationships among the employees. Such a leader must have four important tools in order to be able to influence others. First, you have to be charismatic. This involves inspiring confidence and admiration among the followers. Second, one must be able to inspire motivation among the subordinates. This is the same as developing a vision. Third, transformational leaders should be able to use intellectual stimulation among employees. This involves encouraging others to develop creative solutions to problems that arise in the clinic. Lastly, we as leaders must show personal concern to all employees.
Me: What learning experiences have had the most influence on your own personal development as a leader?
KC: One of the greatest learning experiences I have acquired as a leader is the importance of being a keen listener. Once when I had just started my leadership role as an Associate Nurse Manager, a fellow nurse told me that I had become ‘over-principled’, and that I did not give any concern to the plight of the nurses. With time, I learnt to be a good listener to not just the nurse’s complaints, but also to their ideas and suggestions on solving particular issues. I have also learnt about the importance of delegating work. When I took over the position, I wanted nothing less than perfectionism. So, I would take up more work than I could handle, even work which I was supposed to delegate to other employees. I learnt that it was very important to delegate work and to have trust and confidence in the person doing the work.
Me: How do you see leadership evolving in nursing today?
KC: Leadership in nursing has evolved greatly over the past few years. The modern nurse is not tied down to the primary duty of care or bedside care for patients as majority of people perceive. The modern nurse is involved in bringing change within a health care system. Nurses are active agents of change who advocate for a better health system through lobbying the government and other relevant bodies. Also, leadership in nursing has evolved into three main categories. First, leadership in nursing is seen as a science of managing a business. Nurses are expected to bear sound financial management skills in the modern world. Second, leadership in nursing is seen as an art of leading people. As such, a nurse leader must be skilled in human resource management. Lastly, leadership in nursing is seen in terms of the personal character traits of an individual.
Me: What are the most challenging issues in your current position?
KC: Challenges are bound to exist in any leadership position. It is the responsibility of a leader to develop and implement adequate solutions to these challenges. My most challenging issue as an Associate Nurse Manager has been dealing with unethical behavior in the nursing practice. Unethical behavior among nurses is not unique to VAMC, but also rampant in other clinics as well. Nurses may engage in unethical conduct in many ways, but the most common way is engaging in Medicare-related fraud. Another challenge we are facing is that of enhancing the quality of care and ensuring safety to patients. Quality of care may be compromised if the nurses are not well motivated, for example when the pay is small or the working conditions are not good. Lastly, conflicts among nurses and/or among nurses and patients have in the past led to injuries and poor service delivery.
Me: As a leader (or manager) in your career, have you had a mentor? If so, how did this influence your leadership style?
KC: Mentors are of great importance in molding our careers. I would say that a part of the reason why I am here is because of my mentor. Mentoring greatly helped me polish up my leadership skills. I was able to learn a lot about leadership that I could not learn at school or read from books. My mentor prepared me of what to expect as a leader. I learnt that as a leader, one must learn to control emotions and those of other individuals. Self-control is of great importance to a leader not only in nursing practice but also in other areas. A leader should understand his/her own emotions, and most importantly be in control of them. Leaders should also be able read emotions on other people. This helps in developing a good rapport with all individuals in the clinic.
Me: What advice would you give someone who is aspiring to a leadership position?
KC: Anyone who aspires to be in a leadership position should be a good listener. It is important for leaders to first identify what is on the minds of junior employees, peers and customers before imposing one’s ideas on them. It is also important to listen to the challenges facing them and the goals they have set. Listening enables a manager learn many things concerning the employees such as their motivations, perception towards work, challenges facing them and other issues.
In conclusion, leaders have important characteristics that distinguish them from others. Leaders should learn to anticipate challenges or problems and develop sound problem-solving skills. Leaders develop visions and goals and then influence the employees to work towards accomplishing the goals. An aspiring leader should develop listening skills, and be ready to meet challenges.
Marshall, E. S., & Marshall, E. S. (2011). Transformational leadership in nursing: From expert clinician to influential leader. New York, NY: Springer.