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Shadowing Reflection: Leadership Development Methodologies

To demonstrate understanding of leadership development methodologies I focused on shadowing and aim to critically reflect on how shadowing influenced a leadership developed workplace activity I have recently undertaken.

The opportunity to undertake a secondment as Nurse Manager (NM) of Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), our partnering ICU within the Network was offered to me.  The handover and preparation for this required the shadowing of the NM for a week, learning the variables between the two hospitals’ with regards to the dynamics and local differences.  Stepping out of my comfort zone of my usual workplace into a new environment, as a leader, was an extremely daunting challenge.

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Simkins et al. (2009) explores how ‘work-shadowing’ is an under-researched aspect of leadership development. Noordegraaf (2014) supports Simkins et al. (2009) by emphasising how shadowing as a developmental tool is relevant, it enables the participants to see different ways of working with their own eyes and allows individuals to make sense of what they see.

Noordegraaf (2014) further explains why theoretical shadowing offers the greatest advantage. Practice-based views, acts, texts and objects.  This can interpretative perspectives, with emphases on ambiguity and sense making of an institutional outlooks on their routines and rituals – all offer productive starting points for crafting realistic understandings of managerial work (Noordegraaf 2014).  This allowed me a greater understanding of the local processes and executive structure.  Attending meetings together, allowing networking, transparency and relationship building to provide future support throughout this secondement.

Leadership development has been identified as an area for further development if healthcare services are to provide high-quality, safe and compassionate care (West et al. 2015).  Avolio et al. (2009) completed an integrated review to examine the ways in which the field of leadership is evolving.  Reading this paper provided me with ideas on how to lead a new team by utilising the concept that ‘leadership focuses not only on the leader, but also on followers, peers, supervisiors, work setting/context and culture’ (Avolio et al. 2009, p. 428).

Understanding that I am a new generation transformational leader I adapted my leadership style to lead, incorporating the new leadership models highlighted by Avolio (2005) who clearly described these models being symbolic leader behaviours, visionary, inspirational focusing on emotional feelings, ideological and moral values; to lead through kindness to enable effective leadership.

Shadowing and concentrating on newly learnt leadership models enabled me to quickly adapt, to a new team, displaying our shared network values collaboration, openness, respect and empowerment within my daily practice.

Shadowing is considered as an informative technique to develop leadership (West et al.  2016), this enabled me to develop and own necessary skills.  The strategic idea of this secondment was to commence succession planning; sharing the required skills and knowledge of each department developing a framework for the five managers that sit within the critical care program to collaborate and work cohesively to encourage management fluency through the critical care department.

Berwick et al. (2008) demonstrates the challenge for nursing leaders responsible for workforce planning is to predict the knowledge, skills and abilities required to lead future healthcare delivery systems effectively. Succession planning requires a constant, competitive pool of qualified nursing leader candidates, and retention of those interested in career growth.  Developing, advancing and evaluating nursing leadership competency can improve clinical outcomes for patients and build high-performing nursing teams (Houghton et al. 2014).

West et al. (2016) emphasises how succession planning can lead to inspiring a shared vision, envisioning the future and enlisting the support of others. Enabling others to act in positions fosters collaboration and strengthening others. Modeling the way by setting an example and planning small successes.  Reading this particular article resonated with my own understanding of how this exciting opportunity could impact our future work, patient care and collaboration, focusing on shared ideas and cohesiveness.

It is imperative to encouraging the heart, recognising contributions, celebrating accomplishments.  Reflecting on outcomes and how small acts could build bridges, encourage collaboration and have the ability to start the process of standardisation, share knowledge and work smarter not harder to ensure quality of care is delivered to our patients and families (Houghton et al. 2014).

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Northouse (2015) discusses how transformational leadership brings to the forefront the necessity to be transparent, charismatic and inspiringly motivational; enabling trust-based relationships with staff.  Positive outcomes and service results are achieved by the engagement of staff.  Adiar (2010) explains the path-goal theory.  Incorporating many leadership styles dependent on individual, situation and tasks.  With reference to what I had learnt this provided me with strategies and tools to succeed in this activity.

“Simply arriving at the “right” or “best” solution is not sufficient to ensure performance is improved or outcomes are achieved. Ultimately, changes come through behaviors and work processes of individual employees” (Hiatt & Creasey 2012, p.31).  Shadowing is closely linked with driving innovation or change (West et al. 2016).  This proved effective to gain acceptance proving I was there to support and maintain the NM position and not to make radical changes or challenge individuals’ unnecessary.

Since completion of acting NM in PICU I had a sense of achievement, evidenced from self-reflection and feedback.  I fulfilled my personal and professional objectives meeting my set goals of networking, learning processes and gaining a better understanding of my partnering ICU, fostering relationships and ideas for future collaboration.

Proceeding on from acting NM in PICU I was subsequently requested to act as NM in the Emergency Department (ED) in the hospital where I work.  This brought a different level of adaption to my leadership and personality style.  This required me to not only lead a team I was unfamiliar with but to also understand processes and dynamics necessary to protect a functioning ED.

Reinforced by West et al. (2016) Succession planning requires a constant, competitive pool of qualified nursing leader candidates, and retention of those interested in career growth.

To reflect on the impact these challenges had on my future professional practice, where would I begin?  These opportunities significantly changed myself as a person, creating a window of the leader I aspire to be. This has provided multiple opportunities for collaboration within the critical care program from sharing education study days, identifying the large number of variables between departments and how creating Network policies and guidelines is more effective and a better management of time.  Sharing project ideas and needs for development has enabled for culture change between patient handover from ED to ICU.

To conclude shadowing and succession planning can lead to inspiring a shared vision, envisioning the future and enlisting the support of others. Enabling others to act in positions fosters collaboration and strengthening others (West et al. 2016).  Eades et al. (2005) emphasizes how co-creation of person-centred, safe and effective workplace cultures across a healthcare organisation is pivotal to facilitate high quality of care.


  • Adair, J 2010, Develop your leadership skills, Philadelphia, Kogan Page Limited.
  • Avolio, B, Walumbwa, F & Weber, T 2009, Leadership: Current Theories, Research, and Future Directions, Annu. Rev psychol, 60, pp. 421-449.
  • Avolio, B & Gardner, W 2005, Authentic leadership development: getting to the root of positive forms of leadership, Leadersh. Q. 16, pp. 315–38
  • Berwick, D, Nolan, T & Whittington, T 2008, The triple aim: care, health and cost, Health Affairs, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 759-769, <doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.27.3.759>.
  • Eades, JHill, K & Craig, J 2005, The shadowing experience for nursing students, Nursing Standard (through 2013), London, vol. 20, no. 12, (Nov 30-Dec 6, 2005), pp. 48-51.
  • Hiatt, J & Creasey, T 2012, ”Chapter 2. Change concepts”, In Change Managment: The people side of change Prosci Learning Centre Publications, Loveland, Colorado, pp. 13-43.
  • Houghton, J Pearce, C, Manz, C, Courtright, S, & Stewart, G 2014, Sharing is caring: Toward a model of proactive caring through shared leadership, Human Resource Management Review 25, pp. 313–327, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA
  • Manley, K, McCormack, B & Wilson, V 2008, Introduction in Manley, K, McCormack, B & Wilson, V 2008, International Practice Development in Nursing and Healthcare, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 1-16.
  • Manley, K, Sanders, K, Cardiff, S & Webster, J 2011, Effective workplace culture: the attributes, enabling factors and consequences of a new concept. International Practice Development Journal. vol. 1, no. 2, Retrieved from, <fons.org/library/journal/volume1-issue2/article1>.
  • Noordegraaf, M 2014, Shadowing managerial action instead of recording managerial, The NetherlandsQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University, Utrech, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 41-46.
  • Northouse, P 2015, Leadership: Theory and Practice, 7th edn, Sage Publications, United States of America.
  • Simkins, T, Close, P & Smith, R 2009, School Leadership and Management, Centre for Education and Inclusion Research, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 239-251.
  • Thakrar, SV & Bell, D, 2016, Sustainability and transformation plans: translating the perspectives, British journal of hospital medicine, vol. 78, no. 10, pp. 580-583.
  • West, M, Armit, L, Eckert, R, West, T & Lee, A 2015, Leadership and Leadership Development in Health Care: The Evidence Base, London: King’s Fund, Retrieved:<tinyurl.com/KF-westevidence>, Last accessed 5th October 2016.
  • West, MSmithgall, LRosler, G & Winn, E 2016,  Nursing Management, London, vol. 22, no. 10. 


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