• assessment;
  • communication;
  • intensive care;
  • mentoring;
  • nurse leader

Aim  The aim of the present study was to analyse reactions to ineffective leader participation in an intensive care unit (ICU).

Background  Critical examination of leadership failures helps identify nurse manager behaviours to avoid.

Method  An online survey collected data from 51 interacting healthcare providers who work in an intensive care unit.

Results  Participants reported dissatisfaction with nurse leaders who were perceived as absent or ill prepared. Participants categorized intensive care unit productivity and morale as moderate to low. Multiple regression suggested the best predictor of perceived unit productivity was supervisor communication; the best predictor of employee morale was perceived leader mentoring.

Conclusions  Intensive care unit nurses reported wanting active participation from their leaders and expressed dissatisfaction when supervisors were perceived as absent or incompetent. Ineffective leader participation significantly correlated with lower employee perceptions of productivity and morale.

Implications for nursing management  Senior managers should recruit and develop supervisors with effective participation skills. Organizations primarily concerned about productivity should focus on developing the communication skills of nurse leaders. Units mainly concerned with employee morale should emphasize mentorship and role modelling. Formal assessment of nurse leaders by all intensive care unit team members should also be used to proactively identify opportunities for improvement.