Career & Finances | Leadership

Leadership Styles in Nursing: How to Play an Influential Role

  • Nursing leadership and management is usually a stand-alone profession, but who says that you need to have a title in order to be a great leader?
  • Nursing CE Central has listed the top five most popular leadership styles in nursing to help improve your practice!
  • When great leadership is in place, everyone benefits!
Morgan Curry, RN/BSN

Morgan Curry, BSN / RN

Intensive Care, Outpatient Surgery, Aesthetics, Education, and Nursing Leadership

April 30, 2021
Simmons University

From the outside looking in, one might assume that they need to possess a title in order to be a leader, but that is far from the truth. There are several already defined nursing leadership styles out there to help nurses and their superiors become better leaders and team players for their practice.  

But before we get into the details, let’s break down why effective leadership styles in nursing are beneficial for everyone 

In a study from Benedictine University, it was determined that there is a direct correlation between utilizing leadership styles in nursing and receiving positive patient outcomes.

Benefits of Manifesting Leadership Styles in Nursing

Leaders encompass many traits, and they must know how to effectively manage situations (both good and bad) with levelheadedness and confidence. Whether you are a nurse or nurse manager, being able to identify and thoroughly understand which leadership styles in nursing best fit you is an essential component of being a strong leader.  

In a study from Benedictine University, it was determined that there is a direct correlation between utilizing leadership styles in nursing and receiving positive patient outcomes. For example, when effective leadership in nursing is practiced, there are less adverse effects in patient safety such as medication errors and falls. Additionally, mortality rates decrease, and overall patient satisfaction significantly increase.  

On top of this, I am sure we can all relate when I say, when patients are happy, nurses are happy. In our recent blog, “Stress Management in Nursing: Contributing Factors, Tips, and More,” we highlight a few of the benefits nurses have when their stressors are decreased. When effective leadership has such a great impact on the overall workplace culture, nurses are less stressed, leading to a significant decrease in burnout rates. 

At this point you might be asking yourself, ‘Those benefits all sound great, but what exactly are the nursing leadership styles?’ Let’s dive in!  


nurse leadership styles, everyone benefits

What Are the Main Leadership Styles in Nursing?

A non-profit membership organization represented by over 15,000 nurses and healthcare professionals across the U.S., The American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC), outlines five of the most influential leadership styles in nursing: 

  • Servant 
  • Transformational 
  • Democratic 
  • Authoritarian or Autocratic 
  • Laissez-faire 

Servant Leadership in Nursing  

 Online career and management solutions firm, Mind Tools, outlines the servant leadership style as serving and meeting the needs of others before your own.  This form of leadership was founded by Robert Greenleaf who claims that if one can utilize listening skills, empathy, foresight, and a commitment to growth by building relationships within their team, they will become a successful servant leader.  

This leadership style has been growing in popularity over the past few years! Employees like to feel that they are being heard. If a superior utilizes this leadership style and puts their employee’s needs above their own, they will have a more productive and satisfied staff.  


Transformational Leadership in Nursing  

Like the servant leadership style, a transformational leader promotes growth for positive change by connecting with team members through a shared or common goal. This nursing leadership type can serve to be one of the most influential and significantly improve patient outcomes and workplace satisfaction.  

This style motivates employees to take ownership of their roles and perform beyond expectations. Rather than assigning someone daily set tasks, those who practice the transformational leadership style teach nurses to think outside of the box on top of their set duties for the day.  

Out of all the leadership styles in nursing, I think that the transformational style can truly motivate individuals on a team to get work done, which strengthens their rapport and increases morale. 


nurse leadership styles, there are five components

Democratic Leadership in Nursing  

The AANAC defines a democratic nursing leadership style as someone who “encourages open communication and staff participation in decisions.” Additionally, a democratic leader tends to focus on quality improvements of overall processes rather than on singular mistakes.  

Since this leadership style solely revolves around open communication, the r>elationships within the team dynamic are usually highly valued. It is important to a democratic leader that their employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns and opinions. 

A democratic leader in nursing is solely dedicated to the improvement of processes within their field as well as building strong relationships with their fellow nurses by upholding transparency, open mindedness, and optimism.  


Authoritarian/Autocratic Leadership in Nursing  

A reputable resource for health-based information, Verywell Mind, describes the Authoritarian/Autocratic nursing leadership type as an individual who makes decisions on behalf of their team without accepting approval or input from others.  

This is a stark contrast to the other nursing leadership styles that we’ve covered so far, and can be highly effective in emergency situations; However, there are a few downfalls.  

The Authoritarian/Autocratic leadership style does not promote open communication within the team, which can potentially lead to a separated work dynamic between employees and their superiors. As a result, this can lead to a lack of job satisfaction among nurses and further contribute to the global nursing shortage 



When compared to the other nursing leadership styles, the Lassiez-fare is the most laid back. This style encompasses little to no supervision or feedback when mistakes are made. A Lassiez-fare leader is usually hesitant to make systemic changes and typically has no prior leadership experience.  

Coming from a nurse who has worked with several nurse managers in the past, this leadership style seems problematic. When considering how hands-on the healthcare field is, this ‘hand-off’ approach does not seem practical. However, this leadership style may be effective in smaller practices where all employees are seasoned professionals in their respective fields and do not need consistent feedback, supervision, or managing from their superiors. 



Whatever nursing leadership styles fit you the best, understand that you do not have to commit to just being one! One of the best qualities a leader can possess is flexibility, so identify within yourself and your practice what aspects need improvement and go from there. Take notes of what works and what doesn’t. Understand that making mistakes is human nature, but recognizing your mistakes, correcting them, and ensuring they don’t happen again defines a true leader – you don’t need a title.   

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