Practices of Reflective Leaders: Being Thrust into Leadership

Sunday, 8 November 2015: 4:00 PM

Patricia K. Young, PhD, RN
School of Nursing, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Mankato, MN, USA

This presentation describes a multi-year interpretive phenomenological study of the experiences of becoming a nurse faculty leader and explicates themes (findings) related to the particular experience of being thrust into leadership. How the practice of reflection underpins the work is also highlighted.

Researchers interviewed 23 self-identified nurse faculty leaders from across the United States about their experiences of becoming a leader, whether leadership occurred in the classroom, among colleagues, within their institution, or more broadly in academe. Interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed, and the written texts were analyzed hermenutically by a research team for themes (common shared experiences or practices). Hermeneutic analysis is a reiterative process of reading the text (data), writing an interpretation, and then rereading and rewriting as understanding is reshaped by continued reflective dwelling in the narrative data. Researchers engaged in reflection through reading the data, writing interpretations, and then reading the interpretations generated by research team members and dialogue with the team.

One theme was further explored through data obtained two years after the initial interviews by re-interviewing six of the original participants and conducting two focus-group discussions among seven members of the research team, focusing on the experience of taking risks as a nurse faculty leader. This recorded and transcribed data was then analysed hermeneutically. Last, to further explore another theme, three members of the research team formed a focus group to dialogue about the experience of reflecting in leadership decision-making. This dialogue was recorded, transcribed, and analyzed hermeneutically. In total, 30 nurse faculty leaders participated in 39 interviews. Findings include four main themes and many sub-themes—all practices of becoming a nurse faculty leader—that illuminate practical knowledge about developing as a leader in nursing education.

One common experience of participants was being thrust into leadership. This occurred when taking on something new and succeeding or simply by enacting ways of being. In addition, building in a pause for reflection was an effective practice when educators found themselves facing the situation of being asked to take on a new assignment and were feeling leadership being thrust upon them. Acknowledging and identifying one’s feelings in response to a situation was another small but significant act of being thrust into leadership.

Exemplars with explications of these four practices as well as questions designed for personal reflection on one’s own leadership capacity will be offered to encourage introspection on leadership practices and challenge nurse educators to consider areas for growth and development as a leader.