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Leadership in Health Care: Situational Leadership Theory

Introduction

In the healthcare setting, the role of leadership cannot be overestimated in workforce and facility operations management. Indeed, the choice of a leadership style predetermines the methods and techniques used by a manager when making critical decisions on time. Most importantly, the adequacy and appropriateness of a leadership style are essential for resolving conflicts in emergency units, where urgent situations and scarcity of time are commonplace. Thus, the situational leadership style provides the best opportunities for effective conflict resolution. Overall, conflicts in emergency care units have been at the center of scholarly attention due to their omnipresence and vast outcomes.

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On a broad scale, the emergency unit setting is characterized by the interaction of multiple individuals under stress acting according to their different opinions. Commonly, conflicts occur between nurses, patients, health care consultants, students, hospital administrative staff, and patients’ family members in an emergency setting (Kayser & Kaplan, 2020). As for the reasons why the conflicts arise so often, the disagreement concerning patient care, while reasons related to communication do not lead to direct conflict escalation (Bochatay et al., 2017). Thus, conflicting situations in the emergency units lead to negative consequences on a larger level, impacting not only the resolution of one case but affecting the overall teamwork patterns. According to Bochatay et al. (2019), “conflicts involving group processes may lead to stronger intergroup boundaries, posing a challenge to current educational efforts to favor teamwork in health care” (p. 804). Therefore, the use of situational leadership for conflict management in emergency care units provides an opportunity to engage the team members in efficient problem-solving and situation-specific decision-making, prioritizing favorable patient outcomes.

The Situational Leadership Theory Adherence to Emergency Setting

As in any other organization, healthcare facilities rely on leadership, which should be based on a particular theoretical approach to ensure consistency. Indeed, the importance of leadership is difficult to overestimate since how “leaders develop and grow will be critical to the effectiveness of the organization” (Gandolfi & Stone, 2017, p. 19). When exploring conflict management in emergency units, the leadership theory that applies best is situational leadership. Situational leadership is a highly efficient approach to conflict resolution in the environment of emergency units. According to Alsaqqa (2020), situational leadership theory implies that leaders can “adapt their leadership styles based on the readiness, current skills, and developmental level of team members” (p. 233). It is particularly relevant to the medical facility setting where the situations change rapidly and unpredictably, requiring managers’ fast and case-specific decisions. Thus, considering the context of a particular situation while managing conflicts increases the likelihood of their positive resolution.

Moreover, the particularities of the emergency setting imply that the situational leadership theory suits the aim of solving and preventing such conflicts better than other leadership theories.

Indeed, this approach to managing disputes provides an opportunity for flexible application of various strategies depending on the variable involved. The most common ones are responsible acting, initial investigation of a conflict, development of self-awareness, respect for people’s differences, maintenance of boundaries, and identifying the goals for conflict resolution (Gandolfi & Stone, 2017). Thus, using the situational approach, a leader can collect data on a given conflict, and investigate its underpinnings and the parties’ needs to find the most appropriate solution suitable for the situational context.

The Effectiveness of Situational Leadership

To validate the effectiveness of the situational approach, one should evaluate the outcomes and workforce management changes this leadership style has demonstrated. Much scholarly research has been devoted to applying, testing, and validating organizations and teams’ favorable results using the situational leadership style. One of the most significant benefits that have been addressed in academic literature is leaders’ ability to shift to any approach to conflict management when adhering to situational leadership. However, it involves much competence and analytical skills since the leaders should know “which factors to consider when analyzing a situation and opt for the leader decision style that best fits the problem to be resolved” (Alsaqqa, 2020, p. 233). Moreover, while analyzing the chosen factors, leaders should make decisions considering potential future changes in the conjuncture that may affect communication processes inside the collective.

Given the complexity and specific features of the emergency setting, a leader must have a unique set of qualities and skills to perform effectively. In particular, emergency care facilities are particularly characterized by time constraints, patients’ conditions, family emotional states, and team member cooperation challenges, which is why leaders’ flexibility is key in preventing and resolving conflicts (Kayser & Kaplan, 2020). Therefore, the situational theory allows for effective problem-solving since “depending on conditions both inside and outside the organization, leadership could change significantly and regularly over time” (Gandolfi & Stone, 2017, para. 54). Ultimately, situational leadership’s strategies and benefits validate the effectiveness of the approach in emergency settings.

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Room for Leadership Style Improvement

The rapidly developing health care field implies fast changes and the necessity for continuous improvement in evidence-based patient care and workforce management. Notably, a high level of stress caused by the work environment marked by conflict leads to burnout and turnover, which are the issues being sought to be reduced in health care. Indeed, the research by Robbins and Davidhizar (2020) shows that recent studies “seek guidance for improving the satisfaction of employees” (p. 119). Importantly, through leadership style, organizations are capable of influencing employee satisfaction, which might either increase due to a favorable environment or decrease based on inappropriate and ineffective leadership. Consequently, if the health care staff is dissatisfied with the job, their poor performance is likely to affect patients adversely, resulting in inadequate care for the whole facility. The probability of conflicts decreases drastically in a collective where most nurses are satisfied with their job despite their willingness to be friendly, including in an emergency and other units (Alsaqqa, 2020). Therefore, it is essential to apply situational leadership to ensure staff’s satisfaction with the job and contribute to the quality of care.

Conclusion

In summation, the overview of the scholarly literature related to the leadership issues in health care has demonstrated that the particularities of emergency care units necessitate a flexible approach to team leadership. Since the emergency setting is commonly characterized by tensions and conflicts between nurses, doctors, patient, and their families, it is significantly important to manage disputable situations by handling the specific factors of a given case. The situational leadership theory has proven to be an effective approach because it allows for using diverse conflict management strategies, decision-making tactics, and problem-solving techniques depending on a particular situation’s variables.

References

Alsaqqa, H. H. (2020). The situational leadership for the three realities of healthcare organizations (a perspective view). Journal of Health Systems and Policies, 2(2), 230-247. Web.

Bochatay, N., Bajwa, N. M., Blondon, K. S., Junod Perron, N., Cullati, S., Nendaz, M. R. (2019). Exploring group boundaries and conflicts: A social identity theory perspective. Medical Education, 53(8), 799-808. Web.

Bochatay, N., Bajwa, N. M., Cullati, S., Muller-Juge, V., Blondon, K. S., Junod Perron, N. Nendaz, M. R. (2017). A multilevel analysis of professional conflicts in health care teams. Academic Medicine, 92, 84–92. Web.

Gandolfi, F. & Stone, S. (2017). The emergence of leadership styles: A clarified categorization. Review of International Comparative Management, 18(1), 18–31. Web.

Kayser, J. B., & Kaplan, L. J. (2020). Conflict management in the ICU. Critical Care Medicine, 48(9), 1349-1357. Web.

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Robbins, B., & Davidhizar, R. (2020). Transformational leadership in health care today. The Health Care Manager, 39(3), 117–121. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Leadership in Health Care: Situational Leadership Theory." August 26, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/leadership-in-health-care-situational-leadership-theory/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Leadership in Health Care: Situational Leadership Theory'. 26 August.

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