Transformational Leadership - Being a Likeable Nurse Leader


Published: 14 January 2018

Do you want to be a leader?

You’d be surprised to learn that only a small percentage – just 12.5% – of nurses and midwives actually strive for leadership roles, according to research by Tyczkowski et al. (2015).

The paper, published in the Nursing Administration Quarterly, highlights stress and poor support as key reasons for the lack of attraction towards nurse leadership.

Being a genuinely ‘likeable’ person would be a surefire way to improve the support received from team members and colleagues.

But, how does one become morelikeable’?

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a leadership style that evidently displays clearly ‘likeable’ qualities in its leaders.

Transformational leaders (Spahr 2015) have gained a lot of attention in recent years for being a leadership style that truly inspires teams and can help to ‘transform’ certain workplace cultures.

This type of leader is said to have the following skills and traits:

  • Leads by example
  • Role models fairness and integrity
  • Encourages others to see past their own interests
  • Inspires others
  • Motivates and encourages others
  • Sets clear goals and high expectations
  • Creates a future vision that inspires others to participate in
  • Creates trust-based relationships
  • Are innovative
  • Have great rapport
  • Are empathetic
  • Are driven to change things that no longer work effectively
  • Maximise productivity
  • Have great organisational skills
  • Are team-focused
  • Responsible
  • Encourage team members to take ownership and be accountable
  • Are respectful
  • Coach the team
  • Are able to clearly communicate their ideas
  • Can balance short- and long-term vision and goals
  • Are highly emotionally intelligent

(Mind Tools Content Team 2018; Spahr 2015)

Spahr (2015) explains that transformational leaders are particularly excellent resources for ‘outdated’ organisations that desire or require remodelling.

Obviously, this kind of leader may not be best suited to more transactional, controlled or bureaucratic systems that are more inflexible (Spahr 2015). It appears that in order to be ‘likeable’, it is clear that you need to be the right type of leader in the right situation or context.

Transformational Leadership - Being a Likeable Nurse Leader

Why are Transformational Leaders Likeable?

Consider the qualities of transformational leaders listed above.

Now, according to the findings of Anonsen et al.s (2013) qualitative study on what makes a nurse leader ‘exemplary’, they must display:

  • Optimism
  • Passionate about nursing
  • Superior role modelling
  • Mentorship
  • Crisis management skills
  • Moral guidance
  • Able to build ‘personal connections’ with staff

If we compare the list of transformation leader traits above, we can clearly see that most, if not all, can be categorised under each of Anonsen et al.’s findings of what makes an exemplary leader.

How to be a Likeable, Transformational Leader

  • Create an inspiring vision of the future
  • Have a clear sense of organisational purpose
  • Clearly express the team’s purpose or goals
  • Understand the values of your colleagues
  • Understand your organisation’s resources and capabilities
  • Accurately analyse your workplace environment and create a plan for moving towards your vision and goals
  • Have a mission statement that reflects stakeholders’ values
  • The mission statement should inspire others
  • The mission statement should also describe where you plan to lead the stakeholders and the reasons for this
  • Discuss your vision regularly
  • Link the workplace vision to the goals of individuals and the community
  • Link the workplace vision to the tasks or work activities that the staff members are participating in
  • Help stakeholders see that they are contributing to the vision of the workplace
  • Motivate the team using a variety of methods
  • The vision must be delivered not just developed
  • Project management and change management are necessary to fulfil the vision
  • Clearly communicate each team member’s expectations, roles, responsibilities and link them back to the vision
  • Use SMART goals for all stakeholders
  • Link short- and long-term goals using objectives
  • Improve your own self-discipline
  • Be a good example or role model – this requires ongoing hard work
  • Be visible (e.g. walk around and connect with your team)
  • Give and receive regular feedback
  • Provide attention to individuals (e.g. understand their personal and professional goals and help them to fulfil these within the workplace as appropriate)
  • Facilitate personal and professional growth
  • Help people to meet their personal career goals
  • Understand individuals’ developmental requirements
  • Coach your team (building their self-confidence and competence may help them to better trust you also)

(Mind Tools Content Team 2018)

Other Leadership Traits to Develop

Tyczkowski et al. (2015) acknowledge that to be an effective leader or manager, it is also important to be resilient. As such, it is crucial to possess stress-management skills and high emotional intelligence.

Montalvo (2015) recognise that successful nurse leaders also need to have political skills. This is due to the need to manage organisational politics, complete performance evaluations, network, cope with stress, and achieve interpersonal relationships.

Witges and Scanlan (2014) express that leadership is imperative for nurse managers, as it can improve staff performance and client care.


Of course, being likeable is not the only goal of a nurse leader. Some people may argue that to be an effective nurse leader or nurse manager it is not absolutely essential to be likeable.

Likewise, some people may argue that in order to be an effective leader or manager, sometimes you may need to act in a way that is not likeable at times.



Portrait of Madeline Gilkes
Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes, CNS, RN, is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. She focused her master of healthcare leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. In recent years, Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing, transitioning from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in hospital settings to primary healthcare nursing. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her brief research proposal for her PhD application involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is working towards Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) status and primarily works in the role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. See Educator Profile

It’s not done until it’s documented