The situational leadership theory can be best defined as the flexibility of a leaders’ approach to management and problem solving. A situational leader understands that there are multiple ways of handling an issue. This paper will begin by discussing the Situational Leadership Theory and its’ many variables. These variables will be analyzed, and the theory’s advantages and disadvantages will be argued. Additionally, this theory will be applied to a particular situation and will be utilized to create a solution to the problem.
Problem Solving in Leadership
Situational leadership relies on flexibility of approach to particular issues that may rise during a leaders’ time in the healthcare profession. This theory is not just about solving the problem, but also realizing the complexity of the situation at hand. The leader that utilizes situational leadership needs to understand that there may be more than one effective way to handle matters. Furthermore, situational leadership also focuses on the assessment of individuals involved, factors contributing to the issue, and the most effective resolution (Tappen, 2009). This assessment is paramount to the success of this theory because the leaders’ perceptions of the individuals involved will affect their decision-making process. Situational leaders need to analyze a variety of variables relating to the individuals involved. These variables include the individuals’ motivation, readiness, and role identity. Additionally, the leader must include factors such as organization, available resources, and collaboration in their problem analysis and solution development (Situational Leadership, n.d.). By analyzing these factors, the leader can determine the individuals’ competency and commitment, allowing them to place each one in developmental levels. These developmental levels range from one to four; where one is the lowest level of commitment and competence, while four is the highest (Northouse, 2015).
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The discussion of different leadership styles is extremely important to the nursing field. Effective leadership in nursing has been shown to have a positive impact on organization, job satisfaction, trust, and patient care (Amestoy, 2016). Unfortunately, at times nursing leaders may utilize ineffective leadership styles that can affect both the patient and the healthcare professionals working in that environment. A majority of ineffective nursing leaders may employ subpar interpersonal skills and fail to assess the situation in a comprehensive way (Cope, 2017). This is where the application of situational leadership may prove useful. Situational leadership relies on the development and utilization of interpersonal relationships to assess a situation and create a solution. These assessments and problem-solving skills have been shown to have a connection with team member maturity and acceptance of responsibility (Amestoy, 2016).
The positives of situational leadership stem from the methods that need to be utilized in order to solve the issue. For example, a situational leader must develop emotional intelligence to be aware of not only the feelings and views of their peers, but also the emotions within themselves (Cope, 2017). This insight will help the leader decide on which particular leadership style will best fit the situation and be effective in leading their associates. To strengthen emotional intelligence, these leaders must be able to utilize and welcome constructive criticism (Tappen, 2009). By allowing criticism and the voicing of concerns, these leaders construct a trustworthy environment within the workplace. This is imperative because studies have shown that there is a consistent lack of action against ineffective leadership in nursing; potentially stemming from burnout and apathy within the staff (Cope, 2017). In general, situational leadership is simpler to use due to the flexibility it provides to the leader. Once the situational leader assesses each team member’s strengths and weaknesses in certain situations, the route to the best style and solution becomes more clear (Northouse, 2015).
Although situational leadership has been shown to be an effective leadership theory, critics have voiced valid concerns related to this leadership style. For one, situational leadership can be seen as overly ambiguous and ambitious when it comes to analyzing the followers’ views (Northouse, 2015). Situational leaders need to assess their followers’ readiness; meaning the commitment level, needs, knowledge, strengths, and weaknesses of each individual (Tappen, 2009). This may be overwhelming to the leader and the leaders’ insight may be providing the wrong information. Furthermore, critics have argued that assessing the followers’ commitment and competence is too vague to accurately assess developmental level (Northouse, 2015). Without an accurate developmental level, the situational leader may choose a less effective leadership style. Additionally, situational leadership does not address how to act when the developmental levels of different individuals within the group are spread too far apart (Northouse, 2015). This can lead to only some of the individuals within the environment to be positively affected by the chosen leadership style.
Situational Application & Solution
The management problem that will be utilized for the application of the situational leadership theory will be a unit emergency which involved multiple staff members and created conflict and confusion. This situation will not be a scenario and no more information will be provided on the issue at hand.
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Before considering which leadership styles to utilize or potential solutions to the issue at hand, a situational leader must begin by analyzing the developmental levels of each team member involved. This will be done by assessing the competencies and commitment to change of the individual staff members involved in the unit emergency. This assessment will facilitate the placement of each member into a developmental level, allowing the leader to consider an appropriate leadership style that will have a positive effect on everyone. Different styles that may be utilized by situation leaders in nursing are directing, coaching, supporting, or delegating. (Rokstad, 2016).
Unit emergencies that lead to misunderstanding and disorder may be caused by a lack of organization or preparedness. The situational leader’s next step is to find the many potential origins of the problem. A situational leader must realize that situations like these are complex and do not necessarily stem from only one thing (Tappen, 2009). For example, these situations may be caused by lack of knowledge on the nursing side of the unit. The staff may have not had the proper training in what to do during these emergencies. The nurses may also have had a lack of experience, leading to poor decisions. Furthermore, the emergency in general may have been prevented if the proper precautions have been put in place. Studies have shown that many emergencies in hospitals can be predictable and preventable (Endacott, 2015). One of the most important roles of the situational leader is to recognize that each member can also be dealing with one or more of these potential issues. Be recognizing the staff’s strengths and weaknesses, the leader can implement either individual or group strategies to prevent this from happening again. To collect and interpret all this data, the situational nursing leader must have a micro and macro perspective. Although the information must be gathered and assessed closely, it needs to be further analyzed in a broad perspective. This perspective allows the leader to clearly see the problem, potential solutions, and closely evaluate the outcomes of the implemented strategies (Kodama, 2017).
The situational leader’s next step is to choose a leadership style and develop a specific solution that will have a positive effect on the staff. An appropriate style for this problem would be a mixture of directing and coaching. Directing would be appropriate because the nursing leader needs to provide specific instruction on what to do during unit emergencies. This will eliminate confusion and clearly define the roles of the staff members. Coaching is also appropriate because the leader must consider the proposals of the staff and how they felt about the situations (Rokstad, 2016). However, a general solution to this problem is practice and simulations. Simulations have been widely used by healthcare professionals in emergency situations (Williams, 2016). Nurses in particular, regardless of experience, feel anxiety when responding to emergencies. Therefore, practicing in a controlled yet realistic environment will prepare the staff for future emergencies and improve patient outcomes (Williams, 2016).
The Situational Leadership Theory can be utilized in many ways in leadership and management. This leadership theory can be effective when dealing with day to day tasks and even potentially dangerous circumstances in the workplace. For example, situational leadership can be appropriately utilized when dealing with issues such as unit emergencies and staff confusion. Although research has shown that it can be useful when tackling these difficult problems, it still has its’ issues. Ultimately, the role of a leader can be both challenging and empowering. Effective leadership is crucial to the patient care environment and situational leadership can assist in making that environment safe and pleasant.
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- Cope, V, & Murray, M. (2017). Leadership styles in nursing. Nursing Standard, 31(43), 61. doi: 10.7748/ns.2017.e10836
- Endacott, R., Bogossian, F. E., Cooper, S. J., Forbes, H., Kain, V. J., Young, S. C., & Porter, J. E. (2015). Leadership and teamwork in medical emergencies: Performance of nursing students and registered nurses in simulated patient scenarios. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 24(1–2), 90–100. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12611
- Kodama, Y., & Fukahori, H. (2017). Nurse managers’ attributes to promote change in their wards: a qualitative study. Nursing Open, 4(4), 209–217. doi: 10.1002/nop2.87
- Northouse, P. (2015). Leadership: Theory and Practice, 7th Edition. California; CA: Sage Publication.
- Rokstad, A. M. M., Vatne, S., Engedal, K., & Selbaek, G. (2016). The role of leadership in the implementation of person-centered care using Dementia Care Mapping: a study in three nursing homes. Journal of Nursing Management, 23(1), 15–26. doi: 10.1002/nop2.87
- Situational Leadership. (n.d.) Changing Minds. Retrieved from http://changingminds.org/disciplines/leadership/styles/situational_leadership.htm
- Tappen, M., Weiss, S. (2009). Essentials of Nursing leadership and Management 5th Edition. Philadelphia, PA; F.A. Davis Company.
- Williams, L., Rideout, J., Pritchett-Kelly, S., McDonald, M., Mullins, P., & Dubrowski, A. (2016). Mock Code: A Code Blue Scenario Requested by and Developed for Registered Nurses. Cureus, 8(12), e938. doi: 10.7759/cureus.938
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