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Become a Transformational Nurse Leader With an MSN

Leadership in nursing has always been important. As healthcare evolves, though, it is increasingly necessary for nurse leadership to be transformational. Strong nurse leaders have what it takes to quickly adapt to changing circumstances, establish a course forward, and elicit team buy-in and involvement. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a Nurse Executive Leadership concentration prepares you to step into high-level administrative positions and provide operational guidance to healthcare institutions.

What Is Transformational Leadership in Nursing?

Transformational leadership in nursing requires nurse leaders to approach problems and solutions with a mindset attuned to meeting the challenges of patient care today. While traditional leadership styles tend to be transactional and focus on keeping the group steady, organized and moving forward, transformational leadership places a higher emphasis on developing the skill sets, character qualities and creative thinking of each team member.

The main differences in the two styles are outlined below:

Transactional Leadership

Transformational Leadership

Tends to be reactionary, addressing and troubleshooting most problems as they arise.

Aims to proactively and strategically identify solutions to potential problems before they arise.

Aligns with organizational structure, policies and goals largely created by upper management.

Encourages shared visions and ongoing employee input in the creation of new policies and goals.

Primarily utilizes an external reward system (i.e. praise, job promotion or money) to accomplish goals and maintain motivation.

Primarily utilizes an internal reward system (i.e. personal growth, sense of achievement or recognition) to engage and motivate employees.

Rewards employees for acting in their own interests.  

Incentivizes employees to act for the greater good.

Assumes a superior-subordinate model, retaining control at the top.

Assumes partnership, distributing control among all relevant shareholders.

How Is Transformational Leadership Beneficial?

As the healthcare industry faces unprecedented change over the next several decades, it will require robust and innovative leadership strategies to adapt and guide the way. Factors contributing to the growing demand for healthcare include aging Baby Boomers along with chronic conditions that affect 40% of the U.S. population. In this scenario, it is vital for nurse leaders to ensure that patient needs are met while nurses have the tools to efficiently dispense care. When all parties work together, as in the transformational nurse leadership model, nurses, patients and healthcare facilities all reap the rewards.

Some benefits of the transformational leadership model:

It promotes inventive thinking. Nurse leaders with a transformational mindset have a strong vision for the future direction of the unit and team. They also understand how to clearly communicate their vision to gain buy-in from staff. As proponents of continuous learning and improvement, these leaders and their teams encourage using innovative strategies to improve patient care and nursing safety.

It builds trust and relationships. Top leaders understand that gaining buy-in and trust is crucial for team effectiveness. By adhering to the same high principles they expect of their staff, nurse leaders can foster professionalism and mutual respect. Honesty, transparency and a willingness to work side by side with their staff serves as further reinforcement. Partnership replaces the power dynamic, with everyone collaborating to contribute to the main goal.

It improves staff and patient satisfaction. When nurses feel heard and valued, job satisfaction and retention often improve. Contented nurses have a positive impact on patient care as well. Based on an analysis of data from the American Nurses Association’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI), a 25% increase in nurse job satisfaction over a two-year period is associated with as much as a 20% increase in overall quality of care. Better care is likely to translate to higher patient satisfaction, which may also contribute to enhanced treatment plan and medication adherence.

Transforming Leadership

Now more than ever, transformational nurse leaders are central to overcoming challenges facing the healthcare industry. With their ability to establish camaraderie and buy-in among employees and administrators, they can launch innovative care solutions and improve satisfaction among all shareholders.  

Learn more about NKU’s Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Executive Leadership Concentration online program.


National Health Council: About Chronic Diseases Transformational Leadership – A Growing Promise for Nursing Nursing Satisfaction Impacts Patient Outcomes, Mortality

Wolters Kluwer: At the Core of Magnet – Transformational Leadership

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