Comment

Why effective leadership is critical to patient outcomes

Leaders who empower are rare, but are an essential and effective team developer

Leaders who empower are rare, but are an essential and effective team developer, writes Neil Scott Aplin

Effective team development and high-quality leadership are essential skills all nurses must use in today’s challenging healthcare environment.

There have been significant failures in NHS leadership resulting in poor patient care. The Francis Inquiry following the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust stressed the importance of strong nurse leadership ‘from ward to board’ to improve standards of excellence, support an open organisational culture and deliver high-quality and safe patient care (Francis 2013). Critically, it has not been the Francis report in isolation that has stressed the importance of effective leadership.

High profile reports by Keogh (2013) and Berwick (2013) identified the need to improve leadership in the NHS and describe how critical effective leadership is to the quality of patient care and improving outcomes.

Fundamentals: embrace empowerment

My career so far has spanned 20 years across the NHS and the military. I have been fortunate to have received quality leadership training in both. I have witnessed good, bad and challenging leaders and I have led teams. I have made mistakes, I have had success, but for 20 years I have been learning and developing. There is one fundamental strategy I believe all leaders should use to build an effective team: embrace empowerment as part of team leadership strategy.

Many nurses working in the NHS today have probably witnessed and experienced leadership styles that do not embrace empowering leadership.

Empowering staff can really help to build effective and cohesive teams, as well as retain staff and develop others as part of succession planning (Marquet 2013). Marquet (2013) proved this with the use of his leader-leader approach to empower staff of all levels to make decisions autonomously and encouraged leaders to provide energy, intellect and passion, creating leaders and not followers.

'I should not be a boss who focuses on task accomplishment; I should be a leader who focuses on task ownership'

A strategy Marquet (2013) particularly focused on, and one I have introduced myself, was introducing one very simple statement. He asked his staff not to approach and ask for permission.

He asked his staff to say: ‘I intend to’. I have found this simple change has helped empower staff to think and consider a plan of their actions prior to discussing, which helped them take ownership of their decisions.

Self resolving issues

I want my team to approach me with a problem and tell me what they think should be done about it, or what they intend to do to resolve the issue. In this way teams start to lead themselves and team members feel able and empowered to make decisions.

The best leaders are the ones who embrace this, who are not afraid to let go, who will freely delegate and who will provide their team with the opportunity to grow and develop. Therefore, the most effective teams are the teams where the leader is almost redundant, because the team is working highly effectively and collaboratively to get the job done.

'These effective teams will help create the next generation of senior leaders the NHS will require'

'These effective teams will help create the next generation of senior leaders the NHS will require'

This may make some leaders who are more autocratic rather uncomfortable, but using empowering leadership can build and maintain effective and cohesive teams. These effective teams will help create the next generation of senior leaders the NHS will require. After 20 years of experience, I now fully understand Marquet’s view that, as a leader, I should not be a boss who focuses on task accomplishment; I should be a leader who focuses on task ownership.

References


About the author

Neal Scott Aplin is an advanced nurse practitioner at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs