Context: Numerous policy and research reports call for leadership to build quality work environments, implement new models of care, and bring health and wellbeing to an exhausted and stretched nursing workforce. Rarely do they indicate how leadership should be enacted, or examine whether some forms of leadership may lead to negative outcomes. We aimed to examine the relationships between various styles of leadership and outcomes for the nursing workforce and their work environments.
Methods: The search strategy of this multidisciplinary systematic review included 10 electronic databases. Published, quantitative studies that examined leadership behaviours and outcomes for nurses and organizations were included. Quality assessments, data extractions and analysis were completed on all included studies.
Findings: 34,664 titles and abstracts were screened resulting in 53 included studies. Using content analysis, 64 outcomes were grouped into five categories: staffsatisfaction with work, role and pay, staff relationships with work, staff health and wellbeing, work environment factors, and productivity and effectiveness. Distinctive patterns between relational and task focused leadership styles and their outcomes for nurses and their work environments emerged from our analysis. For example, 24 studies reported that leadership styles focused on people and relationships (transformational, resonant, supportive, and consideration) were associated with higher nurse job satisfaction, whereas 10 studies found that leadership styles focused on tasks (dissonant, instrumental and management by exception) were associated with lower nurse job satisfaction. Similar trends were found for each category of outcomes.
Conclusion: Our results document evidence of various forms of leadership and their differential effects on the nursing workforce and work environments. Leadership focused on task completion alone is not sufficient to achieve optimum outcomes for the nursing workforce. Efforts by organizations and individuals to encourage and develop transformational and relational leadership are needed to enhance nurse satisfaction, recruitment, retention, and healthy work environments, particularly in this current and worsening nursing shortage.
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