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Keywords:

  • leadership;
  • nursing;
  • transformational leadership.

HUTCHINSON M and JACKSON D. Nursing Inquiry 2013; 20: 11–22 Transformational leadership in nursing: towards a more critical interpretation

Effective nurse leadership is positioned as an essential factor in achieving optimal patient outcomes and workplace enhancement. Over the last two decades, writing and research on nursing leadership has been dominated by one conceptual theory, that of transformational leadership. This theoretical framework has provided insight into various leader characteristics, with research findings presented as persuasive evidence. While elsewhere there has been robust debate on the merits of the transformational model of leadership, in the nursing literature, there has been little critical review of the model and the commonly used assessment instruments. In this article, we critically review more than a decade of nursing scholarship on the transformational model of leadership and its empirical evidence. Applying a critical lens to the literature, the conceptual and methodological weaknesses of much nursing research on this topic, we question whether the uncritical adoption of the transformational model has resulted in a limited interpretation of nursing leadership. Given the limitations of the model, we advocate embracing new ways of thinking about nursing leadership.