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Traits and Skills for Leadership in Healthcare

Being a Great Leader


In the healthcare workforce, leadership has always been a vital component of a running a

successful organization. Being a great leader encompasses confidence, positivity, and

motivation. In an organization, a leader must strive to do his/ her best to achieve positive

outcomes and to create a functional environment for employees. Operating and running an

organization takes a lot of skill and competence. It also includes having particular traits,

attributes, or behaviors. Of course, having good traits or behaviors can for the most part be a

great thing. On the other hand, having bad traits or behaviors can be detrimental to leading an

organization. Also, having a proactive stance when leading, such as taking the initiative to get

things done, fosters teamwork.  Many leaders, managers, or directors have their own way or style

of leading their team. In the end a good manager should lead by example and encourage his/ her

team to be great. This can be done by promoting positive and proactive behaviors. This paper

will discuss what it takes to be a great leader in healthcare and some of the traits and attributes

one should possess. In addition to this, this paper will show a comparison of the theories that

support having good attributes and how it relates to being a good leader. For the purposes of this

paper in comparing, Leader 1 and Leader 2 will be used.


Leadership is and will continue to be a popular issue in the management of operating a

company or organization. Leadership can be described as the behavior of an

individual when managing the tasks and activities of a group toward a shared goal (Abdulaziz,

2013p. 285). Also, leadership encompasses having great traits and attributes in order to be

successful. These may include being a great listener or role model, being fair, honest,

welcoming, and a team player.  In the healthcare workforce, there are great leaders and some

leaders that possess bad traits. When leading a team, he or she should be that person an employee

can feel comfortable going to; be a listening ear, someone that is encouraging and helpful.

Employees should not feel awkward or fearful to approach their leader.

In the aspect of this paper, we will refer to the persons as Leader 1 and Leader 2. Leader

1 is the ideal person to lead and manage employees. This leader possesses good behaviors and

attributes. Honesty, fairness and a sense of confidence and competence is what makes Leader 1

suitable to lead an organization. Leader 2 is an example of a leader that would bring negative

energy to a workplace. Leader 2 is one who does not listen to one’s concerns, is not fair, and

does not possess good behaviors with employees. In this paper, Leader 1 and leader 2

will be compared and contrasted as it relates to behaviors, traits, and theories.

Traits, Attributes and Behaviors of a Great Leader

To be a great leader, he or she should possess certain qualities. In the healthcare setting

these behaviors are crucial in maintaining a functional environment.  These traits or behaviors

include honesty, respect, integrity, being a team player, and having the ability to motivate others.

Staff or employees respect a leader with these traits. Staff tend to be more productive in doing

their work and produce better outcomes. They also tend to meet deadlines and accomplish set


Leadership Styles

Leadership styles are the approaches used to motivate followers (Chioma et al., 2016, p.

20). Leaders depend on the leadership style that is adopted in a given situation to serve as a

roadmap to the policy of the organization (Cummings, 2009, p.6). There are many different

leadership styles that aid in leading a team or organization. The styles that will be discussed are

autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. Firstly, autocratic leadership is considered a type of

leadership when leaders have power over employees. With autocratic leadership, leaders make

decisions without talking with employees first and they make use of punishment and threats to

get things done. An advantage to this leadership style is that decisions can be made quickly. A

disadvantage is that this leadership style can cause tension and resentment towards the leader.

Secondly, democratic leadership is when leaders often include staff in decision making and goal

setting. This leadership style promotes team building and keeps staff informed about things.

Democratic leadership style tends to foster responsibility, flexibility, and high morale that will

result to improved employees’ performance (Chioma et al., 2016, p.21). Lastly, the laissez faire

leadership style is more laid back. The leader allows the staff to do their own thing. The leader

has minimal participation with staff. This style can be detrimental to the

staff in terms of meeting deadlines, achieving goals, and being motivated.

Leadership Theories

During the 20th century, many leadership theories were evolved.  According to

Borkowski (2016), understanding the development and application of leadership theory prepares

the leader to fulfill the theory responsibilities of prediction, explanation, and control. Some of

these theories included the Great Man theory, Trait theory, Behavioral theory, House’s Path-

Goal Theory, and Fielder’s Contingency Theory. The Great Man theory states that “Good leaders

are born, not made”. “The great man theory of leadership states that some people are born with

the necessary attributes that set them apart from others and that these traits are responsible for
their assuming positions of power and authority” (Prachi, 2018). The trait theory is similar to the

Great Man theory in which it assumes that people naturally inherit certain traits and qualities in

order to be a leader. This in turn leads to effective leadership. House’s Path-Goal theory

“suggests that effective leaders provide the path, support, and resources to assist subordinates in

attaining organizational goals” (Borkowski, 2016, p.211).  Fielder’s Contingency theory says

that a leader’s success depends on leadership style and situation (Popp & Hadwich, 2018, p.44).

This theory uses a questionnaire called the LPC (Least Preferred CoWorker) scale to assess who

their most preferred coworker is and who their least preferred coworker is. Depending on the

results, the employee was either ‘task-oriented” or ‘relations-oriented’. All of these theories

apply toleadership.

Challenges in Promoting Good Leadership Qualities

When working in healthcare, there are many challenges and obstacles in promoting good

qualities or behaviors. Some of these challenges may include attitudes of staff, tension between

staff and leaders, and negative energy from other staff members. For example, Leader 1 is a

positive and motivating leader. This leader exemplifies working together and encourages others

to do their best in whatever it may be. The staff usually respects this leader and feels appreciated.

If there are issues amongst staff and Leader 1 is trying to mediate it, then most likely the staff

will be receptive to Leader 1.  Leader 1 possess the skills to effectively manage and resolve the

situation. On the other hand, Leader 2 is the opposite. This leader is more of an autocratic leader,

meaning he or she usually controls everything. If there is an issue with the staff as mentioned

with Leader 1, Leader 2 will not help the situation. Leader 2 lacks communication skills and does

not know or have to skills to diffuse the situation. This is usually disastrous and causes

unnecessary tension between the staff and leader.

Current Environment in Healthcare

The current environment in healthcare is very demanding. With issues such as being

understaffed, poor management, and lack of things to foster retention, the healthcare

environment is set up to create dangerous situations. While patient safety is a very important

issue and takes priority, the well-being of leaders and staff is just as important. Working in

healthcare makes one see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Being overworked and unappreciated

can be overwhelming for an employee. In situations like this, leaders must have the skill as well

as competence to handle this. Ideally, many leaders and staff get frustrated with situations like

this but it takes dedication and faith to get through situations like this. About 3 years ago, on a

busy med-surg unit, things were chaotic, patient census was high, and short-staffed. Leader 2,

which in the paper is the negative leader, was very rude and did not take other’s feelings into

consideration. Leader 2 did not show compassion or have regard for anyone’s schedule or life for

that matter. This leader’s main concern was having someone to staff the unit by any means

necessary. She would deny vacation requests that staff would put in, even if plans were already

made. She would harass and call to see if anyone would pick up to work which stressed the staff

out. She literally made you feel guilty for not picking up a shift. This caused a great deal of

tension which lead to some of the staff to resign. This leader was a poor example of what a

leader should be.

On the other hand, in this same situation, Leader 1 was the model leader. Leader 1

ensured that the unit was running smoothly, despite all of the chaos going on. Leader 1 made

sure the unit was staffed without all of the harassment. She held always held a positive attitude

even though she was frustrated with the situation as well. She was admired by the staff and

always helped out when needed. She also worked it out for staff to be able to take requested time

off. This type of leader is needed in any type of situation. With a leader like Leader 1, everything

will operate in a positive way. The staff will be more respectful and receptive to things.

To better help create a functional and positive environment, it is important to adopt some

proactive behaviors. Proactive behaviors are aimed at improving work processes and achieving

goals to make a unit operate smoothly. Behaviors that are proactive can include taking the

initiative to get things done and proactively problem solve. By being proactive can greatly help

in the functions of a unit. These behaviors can also foster teamwork and motivation among staff.


In conclusion, it is known that a leader must adopt certain traits, attributes or behaviors in

order to be successful in running an organization.  “A successful leader cooperates with others to

create a favorable atmosphere for achieving organizational goals” (Zibert et al., 2018, p.210).

These behaviors or traits include honesty, respect, being a team player, and the ability to

motivate others. Negative traits or behaviors such as being negative, rude, or being disrespectful

to staff can create a negative environment. This can be a recipe for disaster. It is important that a

leader utilizes the skills and tools adopted to create a great dynamic between the leader and staff.

All of the theories previously mentioned play a huge part in leadership. In mainly all of

the theories, leadership is a process that involves a combination of traits or

personality characteristics or certain behaviors. As far as challenges in promoting good

behaviors, this will always be a factor. To goal is to promote and encourage good behaviors or

traits regardless of what the situation is. These theorists had a great influence on what leadership

is. It is because of these theories that leadership plays a big part in operating an organization.

In regards to the current environment in healthcare, changes have to be made. Change

starts with leadership. A positive leader sets the tone for how an organization or unit will run.

Issues like high patient census, overworked staff, and lack of support has been an issue in

healthcare for a long time and it does not seem like it will get better anytime soon. These issues

can be more manageable with the right leader. Every situation is not perfect but if there is

motivation and encouragement from a leader, it makes it a little better. Leadership will always be

a very important topic. With a positive and skillful leader, everything is destined to be great.


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  • Aladeen, M., Mohamamed, A. (2014). Review: Effects of Leadership Styles on Quality of services in healthcare. European Scientific Journal, 10(18)
  • Baher, E. (2014). Leadership in Management- Guiding Principles, Best Practices, and Core Attributes. Journal of Public Health Management. 20(3) pp.356-357
  • Borkowski, N. (2016). Organizational Behavior in Healthcare (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.
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  • Cummings, G. (2009) The influence of Authentic Leadership behaviors on trust and work outcomes on healthcare staff. Journal of Leadership Studies, 3(2) pp. 6-23
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  • Prachi,J. (2018). Great Man Leadership of Theory. Retrieved from https://mamagementstudyguide.com/great-man-theory.htm
  • Zhang, J., Song, L. (2018). How authentic leadership influences employee proactivity: The sequential mediating effects of psychological empowerment and core self-evaluations and the moderating role of employee political skill. Frontiers of Business Research in China


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