Research Paper On Authentic Leadership Theory Analysis

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Leadership, Nursing, Theory, Breastfeeding, Health, Environment, Management, Health Care

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2020/10/20

Analysis of Leadership Theories

Leadership in nursing practice is a key skill for professionals at all levels; according to numerous researches, there’s a link between nurses empowerment, initiative, wide professional growth opportunities and resulting job satisfaction and patients’ outcomes. Leadership skills are vital not only for nursing managers, whose roles assumes manager As nursing role in health care gains importance and is challenged by such factors as new technologies, new organizational environment, higher requirments to the quality of care, emphasizing participation, education and cultural diversity, it becomes obvious that to handle this pressure, the nursing practitioners should develop and enhance their leadership skills (Frankel, 2011.) Considering leadership in nursing from the point of view of leadership theories allows in-depth understanding of specific leadership styles, attitudes and skills and their applicability for the different organizations and environments.
Authentic leadership and transformational leadership theories describe different aspect of successful leadership based on building constructive, healthy and effective relations within the work team. Having the pecific strengths and weaknesses, both theories describe the behaviors that can be used as reference point for effective leaders. The practical application of those theories in nursing practice has a positive impact on various aspects of organizational performance.


High level of uncertainty, competition, performance, strategic vision, resource efficiency – in today’s health care business world more and more interferes the management of healthcare. Trying to succeed in a rapidly changing environment and fighting with fhe financial constraints and the staff turnover which is higher as ever before, the nursing managers have to adapt to new trends and lead, organize, co-ordinate and deliver care in way that requires more than just managerial skills. Transformational leadership is considered as an important component of the Magnet® designation model (Sherman, 2012,) and authentic leadership –of a Healthy Work Environment® (Anderson, 2011.) It means that competent leadership and capability to maintain a positive work atmosphere have been recognized as vital attributes of successful health care organizations, capable to attract and retain the best nursing telents and to deliver the quality care to its patients.
Leadership, previously considered as secondary skill for nursing professionals, nowadays gains its importance. Management can support nursing practitioners with necessary policies, approaches and tools, but it’s the time to go beyond the traditional administration. Today’s healthcare looks like a ‘permanent white water’ – “the environment that frequently puts people in the position of doing things they have little experience of or have never done before” (Govier & Nash, 2009.) It requires not only management technologies but specific personal skills enabling a nursing leader to look beyond the routine and to lead, inspire, govern and encourage colleagues and subordinates, to improve processes and practices, to innovate and to improve the quality of care as required by patients. This paper is aimed at characterising, comparing and contrasting two leadership theories – authentic leadership-theory and transformational leadership theory, - and also at analysing their applicability for guiding ARNPs and nurse leaders in their DNP practice.

The pressure of global economic challenges, ethical dilemmas, rising healthcare employees turnover, corporate scandals, severe infections outbreaks highlighed the importance of integrity and accountability of healthcare leaders (May, as cited in Wong & Cummings, 2009.) The leadership theories based on positive psychology background, emphasizing the abilities to create positive work environment and bring positive attitudes and meaningfulness to the organizational processes and work relations, have become more popular.
The concept of authenticity (“self-understanding”) has been known since ancient Greece, but the idea of authenticity as related to a leadership, understanding authenticity as an ability “to balance responsibilities for private freedom and public obligation” emerged in the middle of 20th century (Barnard, as cited in Novicevic et al., 2006.) The goal of contemporary authentic leadership theory was not in re-inventing new theory of leadership, but to find a common basis of authentic leadership intrinsic to a numerous of leadership styles and theories (Avolio et al., as cited in Wong & Cummings, 2009.) The modern theory of authentic leadership was originated by Kernis in the early 2000s, who defines the core constructs of authenticity in executive leadership: self-awareness of values, strengths, weaknesses, beliegs and goals; objective, balanced and unbiased perception of others’ attribites and other information; authentic behavior from the true self; authenticity in relations - trustfulness, transparency and honesty in interaction with other people (Kernis, Gardner et al., as cited in Wong & Cummings, 2009.)
In the literature, the authentic leaders are described as people who understood the authenticity in their anf other people’s knowledge, beliefs and values, and who operates on the basis of those values, knowledge and moral perspectives. They clearly understand the environment and framework in which they have to operate, and with this understanding they can lead others effectively and positively (Avolio et al., as cited in Nichols & Erakovich, 2013.) As those leaders are focused not only on their personal moral values but also on the beliefs values of the other people within organization, “the worth of their individual selves is often linked with the experience of contingent regard by significant others" (Ryan & Brown, 2003, as cited in Novicevic et al., 2006.)
May et al. emphasizes the ethical background of authentic leaders, arguing that the leaders of this type build their personal and organizational lives on the basis of their ethical grounds and are able to create a positive, ethical environment in their work teams recognizing the intrinsic value of their employees and other stakeholders (as cited in Nichols & Erakovich, 2013.) Authentic leaders effectively use the instruments of inspirational motivation, idealized influence, intellectual stimulation in the positive and ethical way. They feel the responsibility for their followers to the altruistic extent, while non-authentic leaders are manipulative and have utilitarian attitudes towards their followers, being able to sacrifice them for their personal goals. Authentic leaders are followed on a basis of trust, while non-authentic leaders – on a background of empowerment, compulsion and manipulation. Authentic leaders create dynamic and motivating environment through encouraging creativity, challenging the stereotypes, questioning the authorities, while non-authentic leaders use control Nichols & Erakovich, 2013.) While the failure in authentic leadership can be reflected in moral paralysis, disengagement, dissociation from the organization and its team, perfectionism and micro-management, the successful authentic leaders promote creativity, express honesty, transparency in decision-making, “experience-informed intuition” (Novicevic et al., 2006.)
Numerous researches evidence that authentic leadership has positive impact on personel performance, work engagement, job satisfaction, followers’ commitment, organizational citizenship behavior (Peterson et al., Leroy, Palanski, & Simons , Edú, Moriano, Molero, & Topa, as cited in Azanza, Moriano & Molero, 2013.) The study by Azanza and colleagues evidenced, that the “flexibility-oriented cultures exert their positive effects on employees’ job satisfaction through partially authentic leadership” (2013.) Authentic leadership brings meaningfulness to the work, stimulates professional growth and creativity, so, the team member are ready for extra efforts to contribute to common goals and to increase their personal performance. In highly innovative healthcare organizations and support-oriented organizational cultures the authenticity in leadership is highly valued.
The theory of authentic leadership contributes to the comprehensiveness of the leadership studies, being based on previous well-known psychological constructs like, for example, positive psychology and authenticity. This theory focuses on psychological aspects of interaction between the leaders and followers, addressing the weaknesses of transformational leadership theory, being criticized “as too broad” (Northouse, as cited in Wong & Cummings, 2009.) The theory of authentic leadership highlights “the positive ethical perspective as an integral component of leadership behavior” (Wong & Cummings, 2009) and finds the common basis for various leadership theoretical concepts, bridging the gap between them.
Speaking about the drawbacks of the authentic leadership theory, it’s necessary to mention that it doesn’t cover the organizational context in which the leaders operate, concentrating more on personal values and treaties of the leaders. But it’s not a significant gap. Teresa Anderson argues in her study that authentic leadership, as well as transformational leadership, is “minimally associated with organizational context variables” (2011.) The next weak point of the theory is an assumption that a personality, “a true self” of an executive (as well as of his folowers) is always a positive, an ethical, and the intrinsic ethical background is always oriented at altruistic moral values and responsibility. This topic of a theory is rather controversial. Finally, the theory, perfectly describing the positive, ethical behaviours of an authentic leaders, doesn’t cover the point how these characteristics and behaviors can be revealed, enhanced and feveloped.

Transformational Leadership Theory Analysis

Today, the transformation leadership concept has become very important, because the nursing leaders have not only respond to changes, but also to proactively initiate the changes in organizational environment, in technology, in culture and dimensions of quality, innovatively transforming the entire domain of nursing and its role in healthcare. Being preceded by a variety of great leadership theories such as “Great Man” theory and personal traits theory, the transformation leadership was introduced by James MacGregor Burns in 1978. Acording to Burns, transformational leadership is a process where both leaders and followers assist each other “to advance to a higher level of morale and motivation" (as cited in Barker, 1992.) As all other leader-follower exchange leadership theories, the transformational theory focuses mainly on relationship between the leader and other team members (Curtis, de Vries & Sheerin, 2011.)
Transformational leaders, unlike other types of leaders, who focus on rewarding the desirable behavior of followers via ”transactions”, inspire their team members, build confidence and trust, and “move followers gradually from concerns for existence to concerns for achievement and growth” (Yammarino & Dubinsky, 1994.) Transformational leaders guide their followers beyond maintaining the routine to development, growth, leadership and performance above the set standards. Transformational leaders employ the following aspects, or dimensions: charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration and idealized influence (Drenkard, 2012.)
Of course, the courage and desire for development as well as charisma are important traits for a successful leader, but the cornerstone of the transformational leadership theory is relations within the team between a leader and the followes. With the power of leadership, through mentoring and coaching, both transformational leaders and their followers “raise one another to new heights of achievement and development” (Govier, Nash, 2009.) The transformational style of leadership is often praised for the positive outcomes for an organization such as greater work engagement, energetic, creative and positive atmosphere within the team (Mohammed, Fernando, & Caputi, 2013;) better organizational performance due to open and supportive team communication, constructive conflicts resolution, better motivation through rapport building, encouraging and empathy (Dionne et al, 2004.)
The transformational leadership theory is criticized in the literature for lack of explaination of underlying mechanisms of leader’s influence (Yukl,) the overlap existing between the constructs of inspirational motivation and idealized influence (Hunt, as cited in McCleskey, 2014.) The other drawback often mentioned is that the key constructs of this theory do not allow to distinguish the transformational style from other existing theories of leadership. Bryman suggested that the theory lacks explaination of mechanisms of “routinizing the leaders’ charisma” (as cited in Reid, 2009.)

Comparative Analysis

Both authentic leadership and transformational leadership theories address the interaction and relationships between the leader and his or her followers and describe dynamic and effective leadership styles, emphasizing positive work atmosphere, mutual support and collaboration, organizational citizenship, initiative and promoting growth and innovation. In both theories, the core constructs are very similar, for example, inspirational motivation, idealized influence, intellectual stimulation; and the outcomes for the organizational culture and performance are positively directed through better work environment, motivation and teamwork. But the authentic leadership theory focuses more on ethical aspects of leadership, describing the intrinsic traits (high morals, responsibility, altruistic behaviors) that successful leaders reveal and follow, while transformational theory doesn’t immerse too deeply into the underlying mechanisms defining leader’s behavior, concentrating on the attitudes, relationships and strategies that work best. From some point of views, authentic theory calls on a leader to return “back to basics” – to self-awareness, internalized values, objective perception; transformational theory doesn’t focus on innate treaties, assuming that the behaviors of an effective leader may be inborn or learned or developed.
In practice, successful implementation of both theories is possible – an authentic leader can be transformational at the same time, although these are two different leadership styles. Moreover, the studies on nursing leadership, conducted by Teresa Anderson (2011) revealed that significant positive relationships exist between transformational and authentic leadership as they are perceived by an nursing team members. This study results are backed by theoretic concept stating that the nursing executives “who perceive themselves as transformational leaders, also perceive themselves as authentic leaders” (Avolio & Gardner, 2005, as cited in Anderson, 2011.)

Application to Nursing Leadership

In a current situation of fast-growing and unpredictable healthcare, the nursing professionals need evidence-based, effective leadership methods and processes to meet the resourse constraints, the ambitious organizational strategic goals and also the needs of patients across the entire continuum of care (Jackson et al., 2009; Drenkard, 2012.) With the acute problem of staff shortage in nursing, only those executives and administrators will be able to handle the problem and to retain the best performers, who, apart from employing their managerial tools (goal setting, performance measurement, incentive system, etc.) are capable to make the work meaningful, to create friendly and supporting environment, to promote collaboration and personal efficiency, to be a key driver to growth and continuous improvement. All these are the aspects of authentic and transformational styles of leadership. The organizational setting, current culture and problematic defines, which theory or style of leadership is more applicable.
The studies show, that the perceived leadership are not predicted by the organizational context, but by the personal behaviours and attitudes of the leaders (Anderson, 2011.). But the presence of effective leaders is an essential attribute of the best performing organization, onsidered, at the same time, the best place to work at - for example, of the clinics rewarded by Magnet status. There’re several areas where the leadership can be developed and enhanced in nursing practice: self-awareness and developing the personal skills related to authentic and/or transformational leadership; the aspects of leadership defining relations with other team members; the aspects defining the leader’s practical implication of patient’centered care; networking and political awareness (Goodman, 2014.) The development of nursing leadership skills should, in ideal situation, begin at early stages of education and last within the entire cycle of nursing career.
Today’s nurses expect from their leaders to be trustworthy, open for feedback and concenrs, to be capable to build strong relations in the team and create a healthy atmosphere. There’re a lot of practical conceptualization of leadership development, for example, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses consolidated the authentic leadership in its Standards for Establishing and Sustaining Healthy Work Environments (Denker, 2014.) Many clinics also choose transformational leadership model as preferred because it assures long-term positive effects on relationship between senior nurses and their junior colleagues.


Both authentic leadership and transformational leadership theories are important in contemporary healthcare organizational settings, because they emphasize the relations and attitudes enabling the nursing managers be an effective leaders meeting all the requirements of the challenging healthcare environment. Both theories are proved to have a positive influence on work atmosphere, organizational culture and performance; and these theories are used as a basis for rewards and designations in nursing domain as the standards of effective leadership. There’s a need in an addition evidence based research in the following domains: characteristics of leadership applicable to nursing; relationship between the leadership characteristics of the nurse managers to organizational outcomes; the most effective methods of acquiring or enhancing the leadership skills in nursing.


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