My sister was placed in the position to bring change into that situation and to get these nursing homes back on track and out of the circle of governmental supervision. One of the things she had to do was choosing the leadership style. In her situation that meant choosing something different than her character. Her character is very open, very participative and democratic at the same time. Participative means that the role of the manager in group meetings should be primarily to guide the discussion and keep it supportive, constructive, and oriented toward problem solving (Yukl 2010).
The situation in these nursing houses demanded a different style to start with. Although a transformational style is better in the long run; when the situation is really bad a transformational style can be interpreted as yet another weak leadership approach. Transformational leaders ask their followers to engage in an exchange of mutual trust and confidence, rather than material benefits, based on the quality of the relationship between them and their shared values and goals (Pardey 2007). The trust levels in these nursing homes for elderly people between the workers and the leaders was almost totally absent and at least in a state of low mutual trust and respect.
So, she decided to start with a more task oriented and transactional style of leadership. Transactional leaders are leaders who treat leadership as an exchange (a ‘transaction’) between leaders and followers. Thus transactional leaders are leaders who offer people power and economic prosperity in exchange for the right to lead them (Pardey 2007). This is not always bad and can be used to create a situation of stability after which someone can choose to introduce a more transformational style of leadership where mutual trust, respect and confidence is more important.
It is very interesting to see that my sister was able to create the needed stability by first choosing the more transactional and task-oriented style from where she could introduce the more democratic and transformational style after building a profound foundation of trust through leading by example. My sister showed dedication and companionship by leading the tasks and even doing them with the workforce together.
The working force was rewarded when they did the tasks right, clean and by the letter. This was combined with being an example by doing the tasks together with that working force and by showing them that my sister herself took the tasks and the changes very serious. Repetition was a key factor. My sister walked the talk and talked the walk. She created a sense of urgency and formed a group of followers and sponsors for the change. Furthermore she formulated a clear and understandable vision of where to go and she communicated that constantly and lived and acted by it. Slowly the transactional style was replaced by the transformational style to secure the future stability of the changes. Especially in terms of moving beyond transactional approaches to leadership (“You do this and I will reward you with that”), leaders need to access more inclusive levels of self-concept in followers and that was exactly what my sister did (Conger & Riggio 2007).
I'm very proud that my sister achieved the almost un-achievable and did it by being the transformational example.
Conger, JA & Riggio, RE 2007, The Practice of Leadership, 1st edn, John Wiley & Sons, San Fransisco.
Pardey, D 2007, Introducing Leadership, 1st edn, Butterworth-Heinemann, Burlington.
Yukl, G 2010, Leadership in Organizations, Seven edn, Pearson Prentice Hall, London.