The impact of emotional intelligent leadership on staff nurse empowerment: the moderating effect of span of control


Heather K. Spence Laschinger
School of Nursing
University of Western Ontario
London, ON


Aim  To test a model linking nurses’ perceptions of their nurse manager’s emotionally intelligent leadership style and nurses’ structural empowerment, and the impact of nurse manager span of control (number of direct reports) on the emotional intelligence/empowerment relationship.

Background  Hospital restructuring in the 1990s resulted in a dramatic reduction in nurse manager positions, yet nurse managers are critical to empowering nurses for professional practice.

Method(s)  A descriptive correlational survey design was used to test the hypothesized model in two community hospitals in Ontario. Two hundred and three nurses from two hospitals retuned useable questionnaires (68% response rate).

Results  Span of control was a significant moderator of the relationship between nurses perceptions of their managers’ emotionally intelligent behaviour and feelings of workplace empowerment.

Conclusion  The results suggest that even managers with strong emotional intelligence may not be able to empower their staff if their span of control is large.

Implications for Nursing Management  Every effort must be made to ensure that managers have reasonable spans of control that allow them to develop and use the leadership skill necessary for empowering their staff to practice to the full scope of their professional role.