Types of leadership styles in nursing

Types of leadership styles in nursing

Are you asking questions like, “What are the different leadership styles in nursing?” Did you know there are various types of leadership styles in nursing? This article will help you as an aspiring or a current nurse to learn about the different types of leadership styles in nursing, the importance of developing a leadership style as a nurse leader, and more information about their pros and cons.

What Is a Leadership Style in Nursing?

Leadership styles in nursing refer to a nurse leader’s personality traits and behavior when managing and leading nurses in a healthcare environment. Depending on their preferences, nurse leaders can adopt one or a combination of two types of leadership styles in nursing to help them reach their goals when managing, directing, guiding, and motivating their teams.

Importance of developing a leadership style in Nursing

There are many reasons why developing leadership styles in nursing is crucial. It may take a while for nurse leaders to learn and establish their leadership styles in nursing but when nurse leaders have honed their types of leadership styles in nursing and what makes their teams achieve more, they do what it takes to improve patient outcomes and build a good reputation for the institution.

The following are a few things that make a leadership style beneficial in nursing.

  • The different leadership styles in nursing promote the continuous development of the nursing staff’s knowledge, skills, and abilities to improve the quality of patient care, safety, compassion, and patient experience.
  • A team of nurses who work under nurse leaders that have developed leadership and management styles in nursing know what they can expect from their leaders or what is expected of them. Thus, the performance and delivery levels are high.
  • Coming up with styles of leadership in nursing is a way of making yourself as a leader accountable to the role and showing others that you are dedicated and committed to your team’s success.
  • It helps to promote teamwork between the nurse leader and the nurses. When the nursing team acknowledges a collective environment where they can contribute to making decisions, nurse managers can become more democratic leaders.
  • Leadership in nursing directly impacts the flow and progression of healthcare units. It affects an organization’s performance and the quality of care they provide to its patients. A patient needs to feel as though they can rely on their healthcare providers. That stems from having proper nurse leaders in place.
  • The different types of leadership styles in nursing regularly motivate, encourage and reward innovation and introduce creative ways of working in a hospital setting. If nurse managers realize that their teams put extra effort into their work, they get promotions based on their good actions.
  • The different leadership styles in nursing help build team cohesion, lower stress, and self-efficacy within the nursing team because the employees are happier, creating an environment conducive to safe, efficient patient care.

Types of leadership styles in nursing

Autocratic Leadership Style

The autocratic leadership style, also called the Authoritarian style, is used by those in power. That occurs when the leader strongly controls and dictates the situations and actions of those they lead. In this style of leadership, there is a clear division of rules and processes. The input from team members is very little to none. When correctly used by a nurse leader, this type of leadership style can bear good results.


  • In some cases, such as when some important decisions need to be made fast without consulting with other people, nurse leaders must independently make difficult decisions based on their personal judgment and ideas. Communicate and execute a strategy with an unwavering focus.
  • There is a clear chain of command. The nurse teams are expected to comply with orders from their leaders without questioning them.


  • Those being led may feel like they are being denied the right to express themself and contribute ideas concerning the hospital’s and patients’ welfare. This might lead to low productivity as the team may not have a say even when they have solutions to problems.
  • The authoritative nature of autocratic leaders discourages open communication with their juniors. This ultimately leads to mistrust and decreases the morale of the dissatisfied team.

Example: Nurse Gabelmann is the nurse leader at a pediatric hospital. She sets very rigid and strict rules for how the pediatric nursing department will run. Some kids with breathing problems caused by the fire that broke out at their school are admitted to the hospital and have longer stays. This means the nurses can have opportunities to develop closer bonds with their clients. Because the staff nurses interact closely with patients daily, they should have more input regarding patient care plans. However, because Nurse Gabelmann applies an autocratic leadership style, she dismisses the opinions of the nursing staff. Instead, without caring for their responses, she creates nursing care plans and assigns them.

Laissez-faire styles of leadership

The laissez-faire leadership style is defined by a nurse manager who allows considerable freedom in the team they lead. While promoting creativity and ingenuity, they typically offer minimal supervision and don’t offer guidance. This is one of the types of leadership styles in nursing often seen among new nurse leaders without experience.


  • Laissez-faire styles of leadership in nursing work well in hospice environments and home healthcare where nurses can work independently. These leadership styles in nursing allow each team member to own their responsibility, be creative, and have the free will to do what’s best for them to succeed. This is because they do not have a nurse leader dictating the methodology of attaining the end goal.


  • Since the team receives very little guidance and direction, they might confuse the clarity of the role and job they are supposed to perform. This happens mostly to the nurses who need more guidance. They don’t do well with laissez-faire nurse leaders.
  • A lot of independence can lead to isolation and affect team-building opportunities since every nurse is focused on developing their own goals.

As a nurse leader, if it is ok with you to delegate roles and responsibilities, giving the rest a chance to grow, this leadership style may be something you can achieve. Although to implement the Laissez-faire leadership style, you must have the capacity to recognize when to be proactive when advocating for patients and staff.

Democratic Leadership Style

The democratic style is one of the most used types of leadership styles in professional nursing. It mainly focuses on enhancing participation from all team members in decision-making and process development. Often the democratic type of leadership style in nursing encourages personal and professional growth. It promotes fairness through open opportunities to discuss issues, brings ideas and solutions, and votes on outcomes.


  • These styles of leadership in nursing work well in performance improvement, quality assurance, diversity, and inclusion roles. This is because there are clearly defined roles, expectations, responsibilities, job security, and outcomes. Favoritism is removed from the equation.
  • In democratic leadership styles in professional nursing, there is a sense of decency and honor for every person. This style is mostly used to clarify roles and responsibilities within fixed deadlines and emergency situations.


It might be more challenging to make fast decisions because the decision-making process requires the input of everybody.

Transactional Leadership Style

In transactional types of leadership styles in nursing, those being led may fear making mistakes because failure will affect their long-term relationship with the leader. This can prevent the nurses from reaching their full potential because there are consequences for failing.

Example: The transactional nurse leader may offer cash prizes to a nurse who completes compiling their weekly reports before the deadline.

Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leadership is one of the common types of leadership styles in nursing that apply where the nurse leader serves as a role model, builds a positive relationship, motivates, and hopes to transform the team through the power of attitude and intellectual stimulation. Transformational leaders are enthusiastic and charismatic and focus on influencing their teams to grow and change.


  • There is an emphasis on innovation and exploring new ways to achieve goals. The transformational leader helps the team recognize their strengths and weaknesses and realize that each person works to their capabilities.
  • Transformational Types of leadership styles in nursing allow nurses to feel connected to the hospital or patients.


  • It focuses on progressive growth, and change may result in team burnout. Consequently, nurse leaders might manipulate this leadership style for their own gains by using charisma for self-promotion.

Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Bureaucratic types of leadership styles in nursing are characterized by a well-defined chain of command, conformity to rules, and strict regulations. Nurse leaders who follow this type of leadership style in nursing rely on their hierarchical position of roles to influence team members. This leadership and management style in nursing may be defined by an organizational structure with clear expectations and measurable standards for the performance of each employee.


  • The bureaucratic types of leadership styles in nursing help minimize misunderstandings by streamlining processes and bringing order to systems and procedures. Management becomes easier, and processes become less chaotic. Bureaucratic leaders tend to include a division of labor with clearly defined roles.


  • In this type of leadership style in nursing, many employees seem to feel that their ability to exercise free thinking, innovation, and creativity is stifled since there is a lot of job specialization involved.

Servant Leadership styles

Servant leadership is one of the known types of leadership styles in nursing that focuses on serving first. Servant nurse leaders put the needs of their teams and the patients the teams serve first. Servant nurse leaders provide team members with the skills, tools, and relationships they need to perform their jobs and achieve their goals. They also try so much to involve their teams in decision-making processes.


  • Servant leaders create goal-driven environments and promote diversity in teams and environments. Inexperienced nurses work well under leaders who use these leadership styles in nursing, as they are empathetic and patient.


  • Adopting these types of leadership styles in nursing may cause difficulty in times of crisis as the decision-making process is time-consuming. The nursing team, too, may be given more responsibilities than they can handle, causing pressure.

How To Determine Which Leadership Styles in Nursing Are Right for You

As you have read in this article, there are 7 types of leadership styles in nursing. Suppose you are a nurse leader or an aspiring leader and you may be wondering which leadership and management styles in nursing suit you. From the different types of leadership styles in nursing we have given you, you can determine which one works for you by evaluating your strength and weaknesses, knowing your personality traits, and learning about what you value most in your personal and professional life. Do you need your copy? Order now!

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