Advancing Future Nursing Executive Practice: The Evidence Base for Servant Leadership in Nursing

Sunday, 29 October 2017: 10:45 AM

Holly Hall, EdD, MSHA
Premier Health, Dayton, OH, USA

There is an increasing demand for nursing leadership to create a healthy work environment for nursing practice which is crucial for maintaining an adequate workforce (Shirey, 2006). Rother and Lavizzo-Mourey (2009) have predicted that by 2025 the nursing shortage may reach as high as 500,000 U.S. nursing vacancies. Servant leadership has emerged as an effective leadership style that prioritizes developing the full potential of followers (Liden, 2013). Current research suggests an empirical link exists between servant leadership and empowerment (Liden, Panaccio, Meuser, Hu, & Wayne, 2011; Van Dierendonck, 2011). An empowered workforce is able to handle unstable environments (Liden, 2013) such as the nursing shortage. Servant leadership focuses on the full development of followers (Liden, 2013). Servant leadership may be a powerful tool for nurse leaders to empower nurses to practice well in a constantly changing environment of care, thrive in a growing nursing shortage and travel well on the Magnet journey.

The purpose of this research was to examine servant leadership and the relationship to perceived empowerment of clinical nurses. In 2015, 51 nurse leaders and 237 direct-reports from four hospitals participated in this IRB approved descriptive study. Self-reported servant leadership behaviors (conceptual skills, empowering, helping subordinates succeed, putting subordinates first, behaving ethically, emotional healing and creating value for the community) were examined in relationship and perceived autonomy, competence, meaningful work and work impact of clinical nurses.

Results from this descriptive study revealed that nurse leaders were perceived by direct reports as exhibiting significant characteristics of servant leadership and that direct reports had high perceptions of empowerment which supported current evidence in the literature. There were no significant differences between nurse leaders’ self-evaluation and direct-reports’ evaluations regarding servant leadership behaviors. Results from this research further supports the Magnet model present in two of the four participating sites since servant leadership was strongly correlated with clinical nurse perceived empowerment.

Attendees will be provided with servant leadership best practices to implement servant leadership for now and for the future. While further research is needed to validate the power of servant leadership, this study provides further evidence that servant leadership is a powerful model for nurse leaders and the clinical nurses they lead.

Empowered nurses have higher job satisfaction, more commitment to the organization, and are less likely to voluntarily quit. Nurses provided with strong servant leadership can act to improve the quality and efficiency of nursing care delivered. As a result, the nursing profession is likely to thrive during these challenging times and with positive implications for the future using a servant leadership model.