Introduction to the Interview
Leadership as a broad and multifaceted concept has been investigated by scholars engaged in various fields and industries to the fullest extent. The development of several leadership theories that apply to numerous industries and organizational types has allowed for the construction of a substantial framework for organizational impact research and leadership capabilities improvement. Despite the vast volume of theoretical information about leadership styles, the skills of effective leaders, and the implications of leadership-related issues for organizational outcomes, its practical application remains particularly relevant to managers in all work settings. Therefore, the exchange of leadership experience is significantly important, especially for individuals newly introduced to their professions and only starting their careers as leaders. For the purpose of collecting first-hand knowledge and an overview of the leader’s role in organizational performance, an interview with a leader was initiated. To conduct an interview concerning the concepts and practical aspects of leadership, the scholar started a search for a proper candidate at available health care organizations. Once the prospective interviewee was contacted and consented to participate, questions for semi-structured interview were created.
The semi-structured interview allowed the interviewer to follow a general strategy of retrieving relevant information that would contribute to the study of leadership styles applied to a health care setting. A list of open-ended questions was prepared to initiate a fruitful conversation, in the course of which the interviewee was asked follow-up questions, asked for explanations, examples, and reflections. The conducted interview’s findings are presented and analyzed in the current report from the perspective of the leader’s position in the organization. Also, the interviewee’s leadership style is analyzed as per its compliance with the leadership theories. Overall, the implications of leadership style, skills, and predispositions are explored against the background of department team efficacy, organizational performance, and individuals’ professional accomplishment.
For this interview, the professionals with vast experience in health care facility leadership positions were targeted. The organization where the interviewee is employed is a rehabilitation department at a hospital. The organization is a public medical hospital; the department of rehabilitation specializes in the provision of services in physical rehabilitation for a wide range of patients. The conditions for which the rehabilitation treatments are provided include and are not limited to stroke, various types of surgery and post-surgical pain, injury, amputation, spine trauma, heart disease, osteoarthritis, burns, and others. The department is a 30-bed unit that provides inpatient physical rehabilitation care to patients. The team of the department includes doctors, nurses, therapists, assistants, and other professionals whose performance is led by the interviewee. Overall, the department is an important part of the organizational medical services system since it accomplishes a full range of health care for patients with the need for assisted rehabilitation.
The interviewee is a female doctor who is currently occupying the position of Director of the Rehabilitation Department. The individual has occupied this position for 11 years and has substantial leadership experience. The essential general task of an individual at the position of a department Director is to ensure that the unit’s operations flow is aligned with the highest standards, organizational codes, and patients’ needs. The leader controls that the services delivered to patients are of high-quality and are aimed at the best patient outcomes. The primary responsibilities the interviewed leader has in this position include managing the team of the department, which includes all staff members. Also, the leader is responsible for the delivery of standardized and evidence-based care to patients with adherence to medical standards and applicable regulations. The Director oversees the hiring procedures, training, talent management, and promotion of the staff in accordance with the applicable regulations and organizational standards.
Importantly, the interviewee is in charge of running the department as a hospital unit, which implies the improvement of service quality, performance planning, and appointing proper interventions to patients depending on their conditions. In addition, the interviewee provides immediate patient care alongside other responsibilities. Above all, the leader initiates decision-making, team management, arranges the framework for staff professional relations, and continuously adjusts the performance of the department to the highest standards for patient care and organizational goals. As reported by the interviewee, the accomplishment of these multifaceted responsibilities and tasks is possible due to her long-term medical career and vast professional experience.
The interviewed leader had worked as a nurse at a rehabilitation department in two hospitals before she had been transferred to the current organization. Since then, she has obtained doctoral education and worked as a Physical Therapist. After eight years at the positions of a Physical Therapist, the interviewee was promoted to the position of the Director of the Rehabilitation Department, which she has been occupying for 11 years. Such a reach and yet consistent educational and professional background allowed the leader to build a comprehensive and experience-based vision of the department’s operations. Indeed, being able to observe and personally perform as a nurse and as a physical therapist allowed the interviewee to obtain an inside vision of what each position entails and what challenges occur the most frequently. The first-hand knowledge of such issues helps her manage both teamwork and the staff members’ performance effectively.
In the interview, the respondent actively answered the questions and expressed a willingness to contribute to the conversation. Despite time-constraints, the individual was able to give informative answers to all open-ended questions that were planned for this semi-structured interview, as well as willingly engaged in elaborating when asked follow-up questions or explanation requests. Importantly, numerous personal experience examples demonstrated how theoretical considerations are applied in practice and how problem-solving techniques might be effectively used to prioritize patient outcomes and maintain adequate organizational functioning of the department. The overall description of the interviewee’s practice as a leader provided a substantial volume of information for analysis.
Critical Analysis of Leadership Theories
The interview findings allow for identifying the leader’s style based on the combination of two leadership theories. On a general scale, being a leader requires continuous inclusion into the work of the team to align the performance of the individuals on the team with organizational mission and vision. According to Sonnino (2016), health care organizations constitute “complex environments that require strong, comprehensive, and collaborative leadership” (p. 19). The environment and continuously changing tasks in the medical facility unit require fast and professional decision-making at all times. That is why the leader’s performance cannot be limited to the techniques and methods of only one theory since different dimensions necessitate different approaches.
Indeed, depending on one’s personal characteristics and profession-oriented preferences, a leader might direct his or her managing approach in the most tentative areas of performance. As stated by Sonnino (2016), contemporary leaders “require two general types of behaviors: “task” behaviors and “relationship” behaviors” (p. 20). On the one hand, task-related behaviors, as the title implies, help a leader to complete organizational, team, and personal goals and objectives. On the other hand, relationship-related behaviors allow for building interpersonal connections with colleagues and subordinates, as well as inside the team between coworkers. One might be more inclined to task behaviors or relationship behaviors, which defines the likelihood of one’s utilization of leadership styles’ combination accordingly. Therefore, as it was anticipated before the interview was conducted, medical leaders employ multifaceted management approaches combining several theoretical models. Thus, the interviewee demonstrated the utilization of transformational and transactional leadership approaches in her work as a Director of the Rehabilitation Department. These theories are described and critically analyzed in accordance with the information retrieved during the interview.
The Transformational Leadership Theory
Transformational leadership is the approach that transforms and changes individuals inside an organization. It prioritizes emotions, values, and standards that allow for empowering people and achieving long-term goals. From the point of view of managing people, transformational leadership reaches further than mere supervision of employees’ performance. According to Bass (1990), transformational leadership allows leaders to “broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group” (p. 21). Therefore, improved performance and individual growth for the benefits of the team and the organization are the stepping stones of this theory. Indeed, as claimed by Sonnino (2016), the seniors employing this theory “raise one another to higher levels of motivation, making changes and shaping the future” (p. 20). This idea prioritizes the motivation and influence of a leader’s personality. Overall, these features align with the elements of the transformational leadership theory initially introduced by Bass (1990) and which form four basic principles. These principles include individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence. These elements of this leadership theory find their reflection in the management style demonstrated by the interviewee.
Firstly, individualized consideration entails awareness about each individual on the team through the analysis of their skills, capabilities, and needs, as well as perspectives for professional growth. The ability of the leader to define an individual’s strengths allows for assigning relevance tasks through delegation and proper challenges. Also, knowing the weaknesses of each team member provides a leader with an opportunity to give them opportunities to address those weaknesses, learn, and develop their talents through tasks that benefit the organization as well (Bass, 1990). The interviewee stated that she personally knows all the members on her team; through continuous communication with each individual, she is able to identify individual capabilities and needs. The leader tries to integrate the individual particularities of all team members so that each of them occupies a relevant position and is responsible for proper tasks. In such a manner, the interviewee encourages individuals’ growth through delegation of challenging tasks and providing personal feedback concerning the performance, giving advice and coaching. It is particularly important under the circumstances of staff shortage and larger workloads that the facility is experiencing.
Secondly, intellectual stimulation is aimed at triggering team members’ continuous learning and improvement of the level of competency and expertise in their respective fields. This feature of transformational leadership “promotes intelligence, rationality, and careful problem solving” (Bass, 1990, p. 22). Through the processes of encouragement of imagination, creative problem-solving, and critical thinking, the transformational leader is capable of building a strong team of intellectuals. The interviewee emphasizes intellectual stimulation in her work with her subordinates. She provided an example of teamwork and regular case conferences, where she encourages the employees to propose options for making decisions in problematic situations. In such a manner, she constructs a favorable space for each individuals’ intellectual growth and participation in decision-making. However, due to the specifics of the medical setting, there are occurrences when decision-making is required in the shortest terms, which is where the interviewee tends to take full responsibility and guide the team through the problematic case. In such instances, the elements of transactional leadership are utilized, which will be covered in the consecutive section of the study.
Thirdly, in terms of inspirational motivation, a transformational leader inspires employees by clearly communicating vision and perspectives for professional growth and finding matches between individual and organizational goals. It also allows a leader to encourage risk-taking and creative decision-making in team members, as well as envisioning difficulties, obstacles, and threats as opportunities for further growth and improvement for future accomplishments. According to Bass (1990), inspiration in leadership “communicates high expectations, uses symbols to focus efforts, expresses important purposes in simple ways” (p. 22). The interviewee demonstrates a high level of concern regarding motivational work with her subordinates. She strongly believes that through motivation and inspiration, people can facilitate their self-efficacy and strive for higher goals and ultimately achieve them. She also emphasized that in a situation when understaffing in health care facilities threatens positive patient outcomes, inspiration, and encouragement for professional development serve as long-term motivators. They are capable of eliminating the threats of burnout and staff turnover and ensure that employees perform to the best of their abilities for the benefits of the organization and the unit.
Fourthly, idealized influence entails the leader’s charismatic behavior that sets a high benchmark for others, who, in response, strive to emulate such performance. In other words, a transformational leader sets a strong example of the professional expertise and behavior they envision as an ideal for other team members to follow. Indeed, this element of transformational leadership “provides vision and sense of mission, instills pride, gains respect and trust” (Bass, 1990, p. 22). When applying these considerations to the analysis of the interviewee’s leadership style, one should state that the interviewee demonstrates a charismatic personality with high behavioral standards. She is demanding and yet democratic and consistent in decision-making. Indeed, the interviewed leader provided several examples when she found organizational issues within the team very challenging in terms of emotional handling, but she has never demonstrated disrespect toward the employees or neglected patients’ needs over organizational demands. These are the issues she wants to pursue in her employees, which is why it is so crucial for the leader to set high standards of conduct so that others can follow this example.
The Transactional Leadership Theory
The utilization of transactional leadership applies to health care organizational management when organizing work and ensuring strict abidance by the rules and standards of conduct. Given the rehabilitation unit setting’s particularities, meticulous following of the procedures and treatment standards is pivotal for ensuring patient safety and well-being. Therefore, as defined by Sonnino (2016), leaders who “work within the boundaries and the existing standards of the organization” have to “focus on efficiency, control, stability, and predictability” (p. 22). Indeed, when performing as a leader in a medical environment, an individual must comply with the standards to ensure proper conduct. As explained by Bass (1990), transactional leadership is manifested through contingent reward. This idea implies that the leader “contracts exchange of rewards for effort, promises rewards for good performance, recognizes accomplishments” (p. 22). Thus, this approach necessitates mutual obligations from the sides of both a leader and employees.
The interviewee reported combining the contingent reward principle with transformation leadership methods when managing her department. She stated that it is obligatory to set a solid backbone for the cooperation, which is regulated by strict and precise regulations of employees’ performance and the impact of their conduct outcomes on their reward. As an example of the application of transactional leadership principles, the interviewed leader described the instances of systematic tardiness in some nurses, which was eliminated by means of imposed fines. Also, in the contradictory or challenging situations that require immediate action of the unit, the leader takes responsibility for decision-making and assigns clear tasks to each team member without considering their opinions on the issues. Such an approach is validated by the prioritization of patients’ life safety and well-being.
Overall, the semi-structured interview conducted with a Director of the Rehabilitation Department with extensive experiences of performance at the senior position allowed for obtaining significant findings concerning the multiple issues of leadership styles. The interviewee’s leadership approach is a combination of transformational leadership basis with several principles of transactional leadership. The choice of team-management methods is derived from a two-fold behavioral perspective, including task orientation and relationship orientation. In particular, the medical environment necessitates inspiration and motivation for staff retention and professional growth, as well as strict compliance with rules and standards of conduct. The importance of teamwork in the understaffed rehabilitation unit is addressed through individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence. These elements allow for pursuing relationship-building and task accomplishment. However, the transactional principle of contingent reward is applied to organize work and to resolve disciplinary or emergency issues. Thus, the analysis of leadership theories within the context of the interviewee’s performance demonstrates that the job of a leader is complex and demanding, especially in a health care setting. It is dependent on the organizational and individual needs, which need to be mitigated to ensure performance excellence.
Semi-Structured Interview Questions:
- What is your current position at the hospital, and how long have you worked at this position?
- How would you define a leader in the health care environment?
- Do you believe leaders are born or made? Why?
- Could you describe your educational and professional experience in relation to the position of a leader you are currently occupying? How did your background influence your professional accomplishment?
- What personality traits do you believe are the most important for an effective leader?
- Is there a definite leadership theory you might use to characterize your leadership style?
- How has your leadership approach changed over the years? Could you provide some examples of dealing with challenging situations early in your career and now?
- What skills and traits do you consider essential for a leader in health care? Are they different from the ones commonly applied to leadership in other spheres?
- What measures a successful and effective work of a good leader?
- Do you think leaders should have role models to follow? Have you had one?
- Could you provide some examples of the techniques you use to motivate your subordinates?
- What is your approach to problem-solving?
- How important is an individualized approach to team management in your leadership style?
- What would your advice be to young leaders who start their careers in health care leadership?
Having access to the information provided about the work of others might be a beneficial experience since it illustrates the exemplar behavioral and decision-making patterns that a beginner in leadership might use. However, it is pivotal for any professional, especially the ones working in such an essential sphere as health care, to raise self-awareness and critically analyze one’s advantageous and disadvantageous side. They might include skills, knowledge, personality characteristics, or behavioral preferences. All these elements play a significant role in understanding what kind of leader one is and which areas require improvement. Since leaders can be developed and educated, it is essential to timely identify the specific needs for change to ensure that relevant learning and skill-developing practices are initiated early in one’s career. The utilization of self-awareness tools is one of the most valuable and effective methods for evaluating one’s abilities and preferences. I have completed two such tools, including Dimensions’ Team Profile and Dimensions’ Behavioral Type at Work Profile. The results of these questionnaires are analyzed and reflected on in this part of the study.
Reflection on Self-Awareness Tools
Among a large number of leadership assessment tools, there are those that can provide a person with the most important information that might be used for further skill and knowledge improvement and overall professional growth. One of the most important elements in “effective leadership development at the level of the individual medical leader is self-awareness” (Chapman & Giri, 2017, p. 137). It allows one to concentrate on one’s personal, professional experience, and predispositions to be able to assess oneself critically. Therefore, the utilization of such tools is imperative for a beginning leader who needs guidance. To ensure the systematic structure and consistency of the reflection, I use Gibbs reflective cycle to arrange the element of my reflection, which incorporates six consecutive steps for narration structuring (Li et al., 2020). It includes six steps, which are description, feeling, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, and action plan.
Step 1: Description
To conduct a self-assessment of my leadership capabilities and inclinations, I passed two questionnaires aimed at identifying my typical behavior in a team and typical behavior at work according to Jung’s and A/B personality types. The questionnaires were completed by answering a series of teamwork and professional performance-related questions. The self-awareness tools were used online and did not take much time to complete. As a result, I was provided with the findings based on my responses. I showed a combination of preferences in teamwork, with capabilities to perform well within such areas as exploring, reviewing, leading, and operating. However, most intensive preferences are demonstrated in leading and exploring domains. As for the typical behavior at work, my results indicated that my type is ENTJ-A, characterized by extraversion, intuition, thinking, judging, and achieving.
Step 2: Feelings
Before the questionnaires, I felt curious and excited about finding out my personality type in terms of leadership preferences and capabilities. I realized the importance of the overall task due to its potential contribution to my growth as a leader. At the same time, I was a little nervous when answering the questionnaires because I knew that the results would demonstrate the issues that I might not be aware of. Therefore, when I received the results, I was glad to have my type identified and was ready to create a plan for my leadership development.
Step 3: Evaluation
During the procedures of using self-awareness tools, I managed to remain concentrated and attentive. The overall testing went well, and the results were successfully evaluated by the system. Because the descriptions of the results are very informative and explanatory, it was easy for me to identify the issues that applied to my type, observe how my results differ from the results of others, as well as clarify my weaknesses and strengths.
Step 4: Analysis
To analyze my results obtained from the questionnaires, I will elaborate on the facts presented in the description section. Firstly, despite the fact that I demonstrated a similar intensity of preferences to work in a team within the areas of exploring, reviewing, leading, and operating, some performance characteristics were more prominent than others. Indeed, the results showed that I might be an effective networker, creator, driver, organizer, and teambuilder. The majority of these characteristics fall within the framework of a leading position. In terms of performing as a networker and creator, I am capable of attracting necessary resources for teams’ solutions but might be sensitive to criticism and overenthusiastic.
Within the roles of a driver and organizer, I am strong in arranging tasks and leading the team through their accomplishments by maximizing talent. However, I might be too demanding and aggressive, as well as detached from the group. My performance as a teambuilder implies that I am capable of forming effective groups for efficient task completion but might be ineffective in resolving conflicts inside the team. As for the results of the second questionnaire, I show a tendency to create a vision and make it a reality and see opportunities for growth and use them. Also, I tend to eliminate inefficiency to ensure the achievement of long-term goals. In my opinion, these findings resemble the glimpses of my self-perception and provide more structured insights for me to plan my leadership development.
Step 5: Conclusion
Thus, the completion of the two professional self-awareness questionnaires allowed me to identify my strong and weak sides as a leader. I have a tendency to be an effective driver, creator, teambuilder, organizer, and networker when working in a team, as well as demonstrate a potential for eliminating inefficiency, creating a vision, and long-term goals. Overall, these data provide a substantial basis for my future improvement of the strengths and even harder work on the elimination of my weaknesses. According to Gibbs reflective cycle, the final step addresses a reflection plan, which is covered in the following section.
Leadership Development Planning
One of the most important elements of leadership skills and capabilities development is adequate planning. According to Rubens et al. (2018), the comprehensive and transparent establishment of goals within a plan ensures their timely and effective achievement. As for the plan I have created for my future growth as a leader based on the findings of this study, it has four elements.
- I am planning to improve my capabilities of creator and networker through practicing self-control and adequate perception of criticism. Firstly, I will read a psychological book on self-control and emotional intelligence. Secondly, in my academic tasks, I will strive to encourage constructive criticism of my work and practice adequate perception, reaction, and working on my drawbacks.
- In order to remain demanding but eliminate aggressiveness and detachment from the group, I will practice following the principles of transformational leadership, namely intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration. I am planning to take an online business leadership course specialising in transformational leadership within the next 8 months.
- I am planning to find and study an article or a monograph on team conflict resolution within the following five months to facilitate my capabilities of an effective team builder and be ready to cope with group disputes.
- I am planning to find and enroll in a seminar aimed at learning practices for consistency in long-term planning and teamwork efficiency within long-term goals’ achievement.
In summation, the conducted self-awareness tools allowed me to structure my vision of my preferences and capabilities in leadership. I found that I have several strong sides, including networking, teambuilding, driving teams, and creating opportunities. Also, I learned that I have the potential to complete difficult tasks by means of group integration, talent management, elimination of inefficiency, and long-term goal setting. At the same time, several of my weaknesses include diminished self-control, sensitivity to criticism, detachment from group, and inefficiency in conflict resolution. To address these weaknesses, I have created a leadership development plan, having accomplished, in which I will improve my leadership skills.
Bass, B. M. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18(3), 19-31.
Chapman, A. L., & Giri, P. (2017). Learning to lead: Tools for self assessment of leadership skills and styles. In Godbole P. et al. (Eds.), Why hospitals fail (pp. 137-148). Springer, Cham.
Li, Y., Chen, W., Liu, C., & Deng, M. (2020). Nurses’ psychological feelings about the application of Gibbs reflective cycle of adverse events. American Journal of Nursing, 9(2), 74-78.
Rubens, A., Schoenfeld, G. A., Schaffer, B. S., & Leah, J. S. (2018). Self-awareness and leadership: Developing an individual strategic professional development plan in an MBA leadership course. The International Journal of Management Education, 16(1), 1-13.
Sonnino, R. E. (2016). Health care leadership development and training: Progress and pitfalls. Journal of Healthcare Leadership, 8, 19-29.