Marti Moore
Martie Moore

Is transformational leadership trendy, or a radical change in leadership styles for today’s environment? What is transformational leadership? How do we know when we are really authentic transformational leaders? 

The questions came firing at me from the audience as I finished my presentation on “transformational leaders.” It’s a topic that should be on long-term care operators’ minds everywhere.

Transformational Leadership was identified in the early 1970s by James Burns, and then expanded upon in the mid-1980s by Bernard Bass. There are four components to transformational leadership consistent in all of the research. They are:

1.  Idealized Influence: The leader walks the talk and role models the behaviors wanted within an organization.

2.  Inspirational Motivation: The leader has the ability to inspire and motivate others to a common vision and goals.

3.  Individualized Consideration: The leader genuinely demonstrates concern for the needs of their employees and helps the employees to grow in skills and abilities.

4.  Intellectual Stimulation: The leader challenges employees to be creative, forward-looking and innovative.  

There is a difference between transformational and transactional leadership. Transactional leadership tends to be more focused on the use of reward and punishment in order to achieve goals and compliance of employees. 

Traditionally in healthcare, transactional leadership has been the dominant style utilized. So why the discussion about transformational leadership?

Because leadership matters! 

Recent studies looking at organizations that have lower turnover, higher employee, resident engagement and higher quality scores demonstrated correlation between leadership actions and the outcomes seen in organizational performance.  

I believe that we have to move from transactional to transformational in order to create the healthcare delivery environments that we all want to be a part of in the face of so much change. In answering the audience, I challenged them to think and act upon the following:

1. Write down what the expected behaviors are for your employees and your organization. Develop a grid to watch how often the behaviors are demonstrated as you observe for a week’s time. Also, make note of how often you as a leader demonstrated the behaviors.  Then have a hard conversation with yourself on what as a leader you want the behaviors to be within your organization. Many times, our employees mirror what is being modeled to them by leadership.  

Early in my career, I had a transformative learning experience through employee feedback. I read employee comments that stated I was cold and unfriendly. I was shocked that I was seen in that matter. I asked a trusted mentor to give me feedback and observe my behaviors. He noted that when I walked in the hallway, I had my head down, walked fast and gave very little eye contact. When I reflected on my actions, I was deep in thought about the next meeting. To employees, I was cold and unfriendly. 

The organization wanted to be seen as a caring, compassionate organization. I was modeling the exact opposite. I thanked the employees for their honest feedback and pledged to model the values that we aspired to live through our care. 

2. The assumption is that all organizations have goals and a clear vision that they are operating off of for their business needs. Yet, many times when I have asked what the vision for their organization is, I hear mumbles of incoherent answers and eyes darting to a framed piece of paper on the far wall. 

In one organization, an individual dove for a binder calling out they knew where it was in the book. While I know that is an extreme example, The binder moment exemplifies how easy it is to normalize the vision and lose the connection that employees are longing to have in their work.

Listen to the stories that are being told within your organization. Write down what you are hearing. Listen to the descriptions and adjectives. Are they the same descriptors and adjectives that you have within the goals and vision for your organization?

Those stories are the clues for you to determine if you have a vision that is driving the behaviors and actions you want within your organization. Stories are influencers of behavior and emotion.  Stories help to bring meaning to the work. Stories are powerful tools that leaders can use to transform their organization.  

Martie L. Moore, MAOM, RN, CPHQ, has been an executive healthcare leader for more than 20 years. She has served on advisory boards for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and the American Nurses Association, and she currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing. She recently was honored by Saint’s Martin’s University with an honorary doctorate degree for her service and accomplishments in advancing healthcare.