Introduction & Leadership Experience
In every healthcare system, the styles of leadership vary greatly among different departments and roles. Each unique leadership style can either make or break the working relationship that is formed between coworkers, management, and administrators. Every department within a healthcare organization requires a strong and visionary leader at minimum, but the individual characteristics of the leaders are most important (Al-Sawai, 2013). These characteristics are tested over time, and I believe the leaders’ decisions in the face of adversity are what determine their ultimate success. This Innovative Leadership course has given me insight into the differences between leaders, managers, and followers. To be a truly effective leader, one must engage in high-yield transformational leadership and lead by example. With the assistance of the leadership strength assessments, lectures, and readings, I have formed the ideal leadership style that I wish to emulate when I graduate and become an APRN leader in my place of work.
I have held multiple formal leadership and management positions in the past. For instance, I demonstrated leadership when I assumed the role of Chair of the Unit Practice Council in the Emergency Department where I have worked for the past three years. In this position, I had the opportunity to set goals for the department, facilitate process changes from staff-driven ideas, and influence the department’s outcomes for both patients and families. The most important concept I’ve learned through all of my experiences is this: being a leader is not easy. It requires hard work, perseverance despite hardships, and the ability to adapt to any team or situation.
Self-Assessment Results Overview
The in-depth and introspective analysis provided by the Strength Finders 2.0 Leadership Assessment gave insight into my inherent strengths and weaknesses as a leader. According to Gallup, people who are aware of their strengths and behaviors are often the most effective leaders because they are able use adaptive strategies to optimize every aspect of their life to overcome their weaknesses (Gallup, 2019). After reviewing the results of my assessment, my top five leadership themes were: analytical, competition, maximizer, responsibility, and deliberative. I was pleased to see that I have a theme in three of the four strengths-based leadership categories, which are executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking (Bachtel, 2019). I was also impressed with the level of accuracy with which the Strength Finders 2.0 assessment described me; I agreed with all of their conclusions about my leadership styles and positive qualities.
My top strength was being analytical, which falls under the strategic thinking category. All of my friends and colleagues know that I analyze every situation and think of all the possible outcomes to achieve the result I want. From big situations, like strategically planning social interactions to maximize networking opportunities for my first APRN job, to small situations, like how to get through Atlanta traffic the fastest, I treat everything as a challenge. I do not agree to anything unless I have had time to think about it first.
I had two strengths within the executing category, which describes the ability to get things done. I do pride myself on completing things correctly and working diligently until everything is complete. I know that I take longer to accomplish some tasks, but I am never late and I always find a way to make things happen. I love to think about ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions because my analytical style meshes well with my deliberative and responsibility leadership themes.
I also had two strengths in the influencing category, which I was delighted to see. I believe leaders should be natural influencers, but I don’t think about myself as an influencer in the typical sense of the word. I think I influence others by encouraging them to go above and beyond what is asked of them. One of my life mottos is, “Why just do something when you can be the best at it?” Personally, I think it’s a waste of time to do something just to ‘get it done’; I need to glean something from the experience and strive to do my best every time. When other people see me maximizing what I do, some choose to follow and compete with me. I enjoy healthy competition because it motivates me to perform at a higher level.
I was disappointed to discover that I had no listed strengths in the ‘relationship building’ category of the assessment. I disagree with this, as I make a conscious effort to be relatable, empathetic, and a good listener. Overall, I believe most people see me as an approachable person, but I certainly can improve how I reach out and interact with my colleagues. At work, I tend to be more introverted. I appreciate those who inquire about my well-being and personal life, but I tend to avoid initiating small talk about other people’s personal life because I do not want to overstep my boundaries. I am a private person and I like to keep to myself. I think this stems from my upbringing because most of my family was raised in Amish communities, who value silence and reverence in the presence of others (Wittmer, 1970). This is certainly one area of weakness that I must work on because a leader without adequate communication, connectedness, adaptability, inclusion, relatability, or other qualities of a relationship builder will never be successful.
Being an analytical thinker can be both rewarding and challenging at times. The analytical theme was identified as my top strength, and I entirely agree. I often find myself asking, “Can you prove it to me?”, or “Why is it like that?” Some of the easiest processes and decisions can be complicated when you’re an analytical thinker. I remain objective at all times and eliminate emotional influence from every situation. If I want to get to the root cause of something, a meticulous analysis must be performed as I figuratively peel back the layers of complexity until all parts are accounted for and only the core issue remains. For small decisions, this can take minutes to hours. For big projects, this could take days or weeks. I often map out processes and design algorithms to help me conceptualize the key factors of an issue at hand. I approach everything with the mindset that every problem has a solution; nothing in life is unsolvable, it’s our job to identify the optimal way to address the situation using critical thinking strategies. If an idea has no basis in fact or reality, then it is bound to fail. Did you think of all of the possibilities that could happen? If not, go back to the drawing board. My duty as a leader is to expose the weaknesses and oversights of ideas, theories, or current practices so they can be enhanced or modified to improve outcomes; however, to be an effective leader, the analytical thinker must operate on a fine line between micromanagement and overt pessimism.
The disadvantages of being an analytical thinker are numerous. If people are looking to an analytical thinker for guidance or assistance and their ideas are consistently shut down, the leader can appear as a dispassionate and demotivating individual who must have everything their own way and does not trust those who he/she leads (Collins, 2002). Furthermore, this can lead to barriers to communication and avoidance of the leader if coworkers feel the individual is unapproachable. Being critical of everything is not mentally healthy or sustainable and can lead to burnout over time. Analytical thinkers like myself must realize that, although methodologic data-driven algorithms are accurate, they do not account for personal input and individualization of those who I am working with (Gallup, 2019). It is my job to find the weaknesses of a plan or idea, but then it’s my responsibility to present alternatives in a respectful and understanding manner that empowers the people I lead to learn and adapt so they can improve their analytical abilities also.
I am a true competitor at heart, and that is why it’s no surprise that competition is my second top strength in the list of five. I aim to be competitive in everything I do because it motivates me to go above and beyond what is asked of me. In school, I compete against other students to achieve the best grades by learning the most material. As a future APRN leader, I plan to compete against my colleagues to be the most effective and efficient provider in the Emergency Department by seeing large patient volumes and maximizing billable charting. Every victory is a win and encourages me to strive for perfection. In the healthcare industry, competition is what drives improved patient outcomes (Goddard, 2015). Without any opposition, leaders can become stagnant and uninspired. I enjoy the feeling of competing against others because it stimulates my analytical intellect, but it can also cause failure and turmoil within an organization if taken to extreme levels.
Comparing my success to a colleague’s accomplishment can be a slippery slope and rapidly lead to failure. Winning might be temporarily rewarding, but what happens if I don’t win? This can be disappointing, depressing, and unmotivating (Goddard, 2015). These are weaknesses of those who compete frequently among their colleagues. Furthermore, I believe it’s not advantageous to be outwardly competitive with colleagues because that can be perceived as intimidating, it demeans everyone else’s accomplishments, and someone always ends up feeling inferior. I will need to be mindful to limit the temptation to compare myself to others because I am a unique individual with different skills and talents than everyone else. A genuine leader will blaze their own trail, but a follower will copy the success of others and claim it as their own.
The life of a maximizer is not simple, and many characteristics overlap with the competitive theme discussed above. Maximizers empower, encourage, and inspire people to take their work to the next level (Gallup, 2019). They ask, “Why do something half-heartedly when it can be done flawlessly?” People who maximize everything they do are natural leaders and mentors because others look up to them for guidance. I have many friends and family members who seek advice from me on projects and ideas because I use my analytic and competitive themes to find weaknesses in their plan, and then guide them through the process of reframing the problem so they are able to solve the issues on their own. I do not give out answers; instead, I provide a different way to think about the problem.
Although being a maximizer can be rewarding, this way of thinking can be used maliciously by leaders if they maximize their own gains and exclude their team members from success. Leaders with bad intentions can purposefully ignore their team and maximize all the success for themselves. It is important to keep maximizers on the same level playing field as their colleagues (Peng et al., 2018). Similarly, maximizers can be discouraged when they encounter people who just want answers, but are not willing to think critically. These people can be mentally and emotionally draining for leaders to redirect over time, which can contribute to burn out.
I greatly value responsibility, and I’m surprised it was not higher on my list of strengths. I aim to keep myself and others accountable for their words, actions, and ideas. It’s not about being fast or getting everything right; it’s about being trustworthy, dependable, ethical, and following through on your word. Leaders often have many obligations that require immense amounts of accountability (Gallup, 2019). One may believe that responsibility is simple and the associated stressors are manageable, but there are many weaknesses that can befall a responsible leader.
Responsible persons can become easily disheartened and remorseful if they are unable to fulfill their duties. It can completely destroy their confidence and their focus on other tasks (Gallup, 2019). There is a finite number of tasks that responsible leaders can undertake before becoming overwhelmed. I must be mindful of these weaknesses because I become easily discouraged when I am unable to meet expectations, and then I accept more responsibility because I feel guilty; however, true leaders should know their limits and not be afraid to say ‘no’.
Deliberative leaders believe everything in life has a purpose; nothing happens by accident (Gallup, 2019). Every thought analysis I perform culminates in a purposeful and calculated plan of action. At the end of the day, I believe failure only happens because of inadequate risk mitigation. We should have contingency plans for every possible outcome, just like the US military (Tiberi & Wendt, 1991). Being deliberative comes easily for analytical thinkers and maximizers. Deliberative people often strive to exude confidence and dependability to their colleagues because their perception of control is highly valued (Parr, Lanza, Bernthal, 2016).
Since deliberative leaders are strategists, many are inherently private and avoid emotional interactions (Gallup, 2019). In a team environment, these individuals can be perceived as unapproachable or uncaring. Likewise, the deliberative leader can be a forceful decision maker and look over other ideas in favor of their own; however, if something fails, I believe a deliberative person may pass the blame onto others instead of owning their mistakes. In the future, I must carefully balance self-confidence, responsibility, and inclusion of my coworkers in all decisions.
Long-Term Leadership Goals
In addition to becoming a well-established Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) over the next 3-5 years, my ultimate goal is to become a leader among my peers and within the profession itself using my strengths discussed above. My long-term goals include: 1) Advocating for adoption of unrestricted ENP practice in the emergent care setting / 2) Participation in shared governance with my physician and non-physician colleagues / 3) Promoting an inviting work environment and shaping the culture of my workplace. The actionable items for each of my goals are as follows.
Over the past six months, I’ve seen more emergency departments across the country reject well-qualified ENPs with primary certifications in family practice because they do not hold an Acute Care NP certification (Nurse Journal, 2019). I believe that the administrators who make these decisions are misinformed of the scope and training of ENPs, and it will be my goal to advocate for ENPs on a local and national level. In my first year, I plan use my deliberative and responsible strength characteristics to join the Political Action Committee of the American Association of Emergency Nurse Practitioners to become involved in educating legislators and executives on the importance of ENPs so that our practice isn’t compromised. Leadership through education, representation, and professional involvement is just the first step in my leadership plan.
Similar to my recent position as the Chair of the Unit Practice Council at my hospital, I plan to continue to participate in shared governance within the first few years of practice. A healthcare system that utilizes shared decision making and promotes flattened hierarchies is prepared for success (Parr, Lanza, Bernthal, 2016). I want to represent my colleagues and advocate for APRNs within my own workplace, so I will seek a leadership position that allows me to use my analytical and maximizer strengths to transform practice while inspiring others to do the same.
Finally, I plan to form the culture of my workspace into a positive experience for everyone. Culture can make or break an organization, and employees look to leaders to influence the work environment. The happiness, inspiration, and motivation of myself and my colleagues is crucial for our success as a whole. I will avoid lassie-faire leadership and complaining; instead, I will promote positivity through recognition, humility, managing ‘up’, and being approachable.
Overall, the exercises and discussions in this course have helped me identify the quintessential leadership characteristics that I aim to emulate when I graduate and become a professional APRN. It will take passion and dedication to reach the level of influencer-like leadership that I seek, but through utilizing my strengths and improving my weaknesses, I seek to lead through example one shift, one colleague, one patient, and one encounter at a time.
- Al-Sawai, A. (2013). Leadership of healthcare professionals: Where do we stand? Oman MedicalJournal, 28(4), 285-287. Retrieved from https://dx.doi.org/10.5001%2Fomj.2013.79
- Bachtel, M. (2019). Innovative leadership in healthcare delivery [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://canvas.emory.edu/courses/63230/modules/items/705481
- Collins, S. (2002). Micromanagement: A costly management style. Radiology Management,24(6), 32-35. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12510608
- Gallup. (2019). Strengths insight report [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com
- Goddard, M. (2015). Competition in healthcare: Good, bad, or ugly? International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 4(9), 567-569. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4556571/
- Nurse Journal. (2019). FNP vs ACNP Core. Retrieved from https://nursejournal.org/fnp-vs-acnp
- Parr, A., Lanza, S., & Bernthal, P. (2016). Personality profiles of effective leadershipperformance in assessment centers. Human Performance, 29(2), 143-157. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5058439/
- Peng, J., Zhang, J., Zhang, Y., Gong, P., Han, B., Sun, H., . . . Miao, D. (2018). A new look at the impact of maximizing on unhappiness: Two competing mediating effects. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1), 66. Retrieved from https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2018.00066
- Tiberi, P. & Wendt, J. (1991). Gathering the storm: Contingency planning and force projection. The Land Warfare Papers, 7(1). Retrieved from https://www.ausa.org/files/LWP-7G
- Wittmer, J. (1970). Homogeneity of personality characteristics: A comparison between old order Amish and non-Amish. American Anthropologist, 72(5), 1063-1068. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/671418?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents