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Keywords:

  • authentic leadership;
  • burnout;
  • new graduate nurses;
  • nursing;
  • structural empowerment

Aim  To examine the effect of authentic leadership and structural empowerment on the emotional exhaustion and cynicism of new graduates and experienced acute-care nurses.

Background  Employee empowerment is a fundamental component of healthy work environments that promote nurse health and retention, and nursing leadership is key to creating these environments.

Method  In a secondary analysis of data from two studies we compared the pattern of relationships among study variables in two Ontario groups: 342 new graduates with <2 years of experience and 273 nurses with more than 2 years of experience.

Results  A multi-group path analysis using Structural Equation Modelling indicated an acceptable fit of the final model (χ2 = 17.52, df = 2, P < 0.001, CFI = 0.97, IFI = 0.97 and RMSEA = 0.11). Authentic leadership significantly and negatively influenced emotional exhaustion and cynicism through workplace empowerment in both groups.

Conclusions  The authentic behaviour of nursing leaders was important to nurses’ perceptions of structurally empowering conditions in their work environments, regardless of experience level, and ultimately contributed to lower levels of emotional exhaustion and cynicism.

Implications for nursing management  Leadership training for nurse managers may help develop the empowering work environments required in today’s health-care organizations in order to attract and retain nurses.