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Better care through transformational leadership

A Full Professor in HEC Montréal’s Department of Management, Christian Vandenberghe strives to understand how the medical care provided to the public can be improved. Lately, he’s focused on how a head nurse’s leadership style can affect the level of commitment from people in their unit.

Mieux diriger pour mieux soigner : le leadership transformationnel


The dynamics at work in a hospital can be complex, which is what drove the researcher and his team to interview both nurses and patients from 90 nursing units in Belgium, making some striking observations.

What specifically interests Vandenberghe is the impact of transformational leadership. “It’s a style of management that you can see in head nurses who are charismatic and selfless and who seek to intellectually engage their employees. Transformational leaders consider everyone’s needs when making decisions and try to help people develop their full potential. Employees find these kinds of leaders very inspiring.”

Transformational leadership had a direct impact on the commitment of a unit’s nurses in the hospitals in the study and, to no one’s surprise, the benefits trickle right down to the patient. “The study showed that patients exposed to highly committed teams were happier with the care they received and more loyal to the unit that treated them.”

A head nurse’s leadership can play an even more decisive role in work environments plagued by conflict between professions or where internal procedures are not clearly outlined. In these situations, a team’s leader really needs to step up, according to Vandenberghe. “Hospitals would be well advised to invest in helping their managers develop and to prioritize training efforts for their most critical units.” In other words, providing better care through more nuanced, people-centric management.

Chair in the Management of Employee Commitment and Performance


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