Concepts of Leadership and Management in Nursing

Concepts of Leadership and Management in Nursing

Various suggestions point to the existence of differences between leadership and management. Principally, leadership is viewed as the ability to influence followers by providing guidance, direction, purpose and motivation (MacLeod, 2012). On the contrary, management is perceived as the ability ‘to get things done’, through planning, control, and sticking to established guidelines (Laurent, 2000). As such, traditional concepts of management, as established by Henri Fayol, considers the functions of management to be to plan (budget), organize, staff,  and direct/coordinate (MacLeod, 2012). On the contrary, leadership has been associated with developing a vision, guiding (coaching) followers, inspiring (motivating) followers, communicating effectively (charisma), and modeling desired behavior (MacLeod, 2012; O’Neil & Morjikian, 2003). As such, whereas leadership is concerned with developing appropriate environment to encourage performance, management is concerned with effective use of resources to achieve results. Leadership thus taps into the emotional aspects of workplace organization while management focuses on logic.

Despite the differences highlighted, contemporary perspectives of management and leadership highlight various aspects of overlap. One such overlap is the issue of offering direction, which can be found as guiding, in leadership, and directing, in management (McLeod, 2012). Such an overlap has led to conceptualization of management as a form of leadership. This is exemplified in the situational leadership theory, where directing leaders, leaders whose management approach has similarities with autocratic leadership, are argued to be appropriate when leading low skilled or untrained workers (Chaudry, Jain, McKenzie, & Schwartz, 2008). Another aspect of overlap is in the goals of management and leadership. Although they may use different approaches, management and leadership seek to enhance the success of the organization. As such, successful leadership may involve management concepts such as performance monitoring through short-term feedback, which is unlike the traditional view that leadership is concerned solely on long-range perspectives (MacLeod, 2012). In this respect, to achieve aspects of leadership such as realizing the set vision, a management approach of planning (strategic and operational) may be necessary. Accordingly, as Thomas observes (as cited in MacLeod, 2012, p. 60), the most effective people in the contemporary world may be “… those who essentially are both managers and leaders.”

As a nurse leader, I believe that the overlap in management and leadership offers me an opportunity to expand my influence to create change. As observed by Laurent (2000), traditional nursing roles of disease management require management skills, while contemporary nursing roles where nurses are involved in organizational leadership necessitate leadership skills. I believe the overlap in these disciplines can thus help me to advocate for use of evidence-based practices, by enabling me to convince other management stakeholders of the benefits that accrue to the organization from adopting such practices. By so doing, I would facilitate the establishment of a culture where nurses are empowered to implement change in their workplace by adopting evidence in their practice.



Chaudry, J., Jain, A., McKenzie, S., & Schwartz, R. W. (2008). Physician leadership: The competencies of change. Journal of Surgical Education, 65(3), 213-220. doi:10.1016/j.jsurg.2007.11.014

Laurent, C. L. (2000). A nursing theory for nursing leadership. Journal of Nursing Management, 8(2), 83-87.

MacLeod, L. (2012). A broader view of nursing leadership: Rethinking manager-leader functions. Nurse Leader, 10(3), 57-61.

O’Neil, E., & Morjikian, R. (2003). Nursing leadership: Challenges and opportunities.  Policy Politics Nursing Practice, 4(3), 173-179. doi:10.1177/1527154403254704


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