As a nurse and patient care provider, the leadership style you implement can have critical effects on your team’s productivity and quality. Integrity, clear communication, and the ability to empower others are some of the most important qualities of an effective nurse leader.

As a travel nurse, you’ve likely encountered a variety of clinical settings, duties, and management styles as you’ve taken on different placements. This wealth of experience gives you a plethora of professional knowledge and skills to pull from as you decide how to care for your patients and unite your team.

While each nurse leader is unique in the way they exercise their authority, leadership styles generally fall into one of two overarching categories: relational or task-focused. In this guide, we’re breaking down both of these styles and detailing their various intricacies to help you hone your own leadership abilities. 

Moreover, it’s essential to recognize that leadership extends beyond formal roles. Even if you’re not in a designated leadership position, you can still demonstrate leadership qualities by setting a positive example, fostering collaboration, and supporting your colleagues. In any role, whether leading a team or contributing as a member, your actions and attitudes can inspire and influence those around you.

Relational Leadership

Relational leadership emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships in making most workplace decisions. Nurses who practice relational leadership tend to be supportive, inclusive, and empowering and have a keen interest in building strong relationships with their colleagues and other members of the healthcare community.

Authentic leadership styles like this that are based on creating positive work relationships can often increase employee satisfaction, improve patient outcomes, and decrease work-related stress. 

Effectively implementing relational leadership, however, takes persistent emotional and organizational work. Fostering trust, respect, collaboration, and open communication among your team is essential to your success as a relational leader.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is one of the standout styles in nursing because it effectively facilitates employee satisfaction, positive patient outcomes, and safety protocols.

Managers of this style are masters of motivating and empowering their employees through their own actions. In essence, transformational leaders are positive role models who personify four key pillars for their team to emulate:

  • Charisma – Through skillful communication and careful consideration of your team’s concerns, you can craft a shared vision for your team to follow.
  • Inspirational actions – Whether giving a powerful speech in difficult times or leading by example during day-to-day operations, setting a bar, and then inspiring your team to reach it, is a key technique of transformational leaders.
  • Intellectual thinking – Encourage innovation, critical thinking, and proactive nursing care among your staff. 
  • Individual attention – Take the time to invest in the skills of your employees and train them in areas that they find difficult. The ability to instill confidence in your team is essential to clinical success.

Resonant Leadership and/or Emotional Intelligence Leadership

Resonant leadership styles often overlap with emotional intelligence leadership styles. That’s because both focus on a leader’s ability to effectively foster relationships and manage the emotions of themselves and others. 

Resonant leadership, in particular, focuses on fostering connections between colleagues and creating a harmonious workplace environment. Generally, there are four approaches resonant leaders can take to achieve these goals:

  • Visionary – If you’re always thinking about the big picture, creating achievable group goals, and giving everyone credit for their contributions to the team, you might already be a visionary leader. For example, a charge nurse may facilitate a team meeting to reduce patient readmissions and communicate with the staff regularly to track progress and encourage creative solutions.
  • Coaching – Much like coaches on sports teams, coaching leaders focus on the personal development of their individual colleagues, establishing open lines of communication and bringing everyone together as a team. One-on-one training, persistent feedback, and personal mentoring are common techniques of coaching leaders.
  • Affiliate – Communication and collaboration are the key concerns of affiliate leaders. Team lunches, the celebration of individual achievement, and tactful emotional support during times of burnout are all examples of affiliate leadership.
  • Democratic – Democratic leaders encourage their team members to speak their minds and contribute to fruitful discussions about workplace protocols and etiquette. They value their employee’s input, take their concerns to heart, and implement their ideas.

Emotionally intelligent leaders, on the other hand, have a high degree of social literacy and exercise routine empathy in their interactions with their staff. They demonstrate keen self-awareness, self-management skills, social awareness, and social aptitude.  

Emotionally intelligent leaders also tend to shine when their teams are experiencing acute burnout. They’re able to acknowledge the concerns of everyone they work with, provide reliable emotional support, and facilitate collaborative, inclusive solutions among their colleagues. 

Task-Focused Leadership

Task-focused nurse leaders prioritize what needs to be done throughout the day by:

  • Setting clear goals
  • Providing resources
  • Monitoring progress
  • Recognizing accomplishments. 

These types of effective leadership qualities in professional nursing are often associated with high patient satisfaction.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leaders are highly regarded for their ability to get things done effectively, though often derided for their unwillingness to take employees’ concerns to heart. Instead, they bear the entire responsibility of increasing staff productivity and improving patient outcomes. 

They operate by setting clear expectations, rewarding those who reach them, and punishing those who don’t. It’s a simple system, but it can have some pretty effective results.

That said, while transactional healthcare leadership can facilitate effective patient care, it rarely strengthens team relationships and may lead to low staff morale. 

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Often, laissez-faire leaders are written off as inexperienced or incapable. They usually operate by allocating resources and responsibilities to their staff, then stepping back and letting their colleagues take the wheel. Thus, this type of leadership is associated with low levels of organizational control. 

Instead, this type of healthcare leadership is reactive. This means that if an emergency or crisis occurs, that’s when the laissez-faire leader will step in. While this form of nursing leadership encourages self-motivation, creative thinking, and problem-solving, it may also lead to disorganization, lack of structure, and safety concerns. 

Instrumental Leadership

Instrumental leadership is generally focused on bolstering a clinic’s bottom line, rather than fostering interpersonal growth or improving patient outcomes—yet, it’s often a highly-effective approach.

Instrumental leaders will develop strategies, prepare tasks, allocate resources, and provide performance feedback to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of patient care. Oftentimes, their primary concerns will include:

The Importance of Effective Leadership in Travel Nursing

No matter your leadership style, effective leadership as a registered nurse is critical to improving patient outcomes, cultivating a positive work environment, and effectively managing and scheduling staff.

Moreover, having a diverse range of leadership styles on a team can be highly advantageous. Different leadership styles bring unique perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, fostering innovation and creativity within the team. Embracing and leveraging these differences can lead to more well-rounded decision-making and ultimately enhance team effectiveness and cohesion.

Leadership skills aren’t only important when you’re in a tenured position, however. They’re also essential when you’re transitioning to a new facility and adjusting to a new team. As a travel nurse, you may find yourself in various leadership roles, sometimes in unfamiliar environments. In these situations, it’s crucial to be adaptable and proactive.

By proactively honing your leadership skills and seeking support when needed, you can effectively lead your team, regardless of the setting or circumstances. That said, if you’re being asked to work in a leadership role that you’re not experienced in, reach out to your agency to clarify your qualifications. 

Lead with Integrity with Host Healthcare

Whether you’re a relational leader or you prefer a task-oriented approach, there are certain  effective leadership skills that are consistent across different methodologies. Clear communication, cool-headed conflict management, and strategic decision-making are all critical to facilitating quality patient care and maximizing employee satisfaction. 

If you’re looking for a meaningful, rewarding leadership position in travel nursing, apply to become a travel nurse with Host Healthcare. We offer exceptional employment benefits and round-the-clock support to empower you as you transition between roles and assignments—helping you master your leadership skills.



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