|Attitude Starts with Leadership|
|Submitted By: Joseph D. Brown, MBA+, RT(R)(CT)|
Over the last 12 years in health care, I have come to notice that the attitude of a group of people often starts with the leadership of that group. Several years ago, a coworker and I passed another group of our coworkers in the hallway. I turned to her and said "They seem happy this morning". My coworker responded "She’s on vacation. They are always like that when she’s not around". I immediately knew who the "she" was referencing. So I started to reflect on why this was the case. Why are they so unhappy in the presence of their supervisor and happy in her absence? They obviously like their job or they would be unhappy all the time. There has to be more to this story. Over the years I have had time to talk with these employees. The conversations almost always end with the same result. "I wished I worked in your department. You all seem so happy and get along so well." So I start to add this piece to the puzzle and reflect on what I am seeing and hearing.
My wife is also a health care professional, and we talk a lot about management and health care. She will ask "How would you get a group of nurses to (Fill in the blank)?" My response is almost always "You need to get the leader to (Fill in the blank) or find a new leader for that position that will (Fill in the blank)." It’s not hard to find examples. I ask her to think about Charge Nurse A. Charge Nurse A is walking negativity. She walks around throwing fuel on fires. In her opinion patients suck, are a pain, only want drugs, should wait until they can see their family doctor, and or can sit out in the waiting room and wait because their problem is not really a problem anyway. Then I ask her to look at the nurses who work under and have been trained by Charge Nurse A. The similarities are astonishing. The opposite is true for Charge Nurse B. She is a walking bundle of positivity. She is a calm force in a raging storm. She loves her patients, feels for her patients, wants to help her patients, and enjoys making this small and usually unpleasant moment in their life as comfortable as possible. The same is generally true for the nurses who work under and are trained by Charge Nurse B.
The common denominator in the examples above is the leader. In the first example, "She" is a very dramatic, high strung, authoritarian type leader. "She" is respected out of fear, but in reality is despised by most of her followers. The department that her employees desire to be was described as happy and a place of unity and solidarity. The leader of this department is very low key, down to earth, and allows his employees to do their job with minimal interference. He trusts his employees and they trust him. In the Charge Nurse example, it was obvious that the followers, Staff Nurses, conformed to their leader in both cases.
So why did I call the Staff Nurses followers and what exactly is a follower. Well, Merriam Webster gives us a great definition that I believe explains everything. A follower is "one in the service of another: retainer; one that follows the opinions or teachings of another; one that imitates another" (Dictionary, 2017) This means that followers do what they see leaders do. If they see the leaders treating patients badly then they follow. If the leader has a poor attitude about students doing clinical rotations, then they follow. So how do you change the attitude of a group working a particular shift or department? The answer is to change the leader of that shift or the leader’s attitude, because the attitude of the staff starts with the attitude of their leader. If you want to change the attitude of an organization, then you have to change leadership or the attitude of leadership within that organization; which may involve multiple individuals on multiple levels.
Attitude starts with Leadership, it is so simple that it is almost forgotten. We all know what leaders are, but we often forget why they are what they are. Leaders, in my opinion, are like large trees. They are grounded. Their roots or character runs very deep. Although they may sway when the wind blows and a storm is raging, they rarely move. Leaders have expectancy. Leaders do not conform to those around them but instead transform those around them. The next time you are faced with a cultural or attitude problem in the workplace, remember, it all starts with the leadership.
Dictionary. (2017, November 15). Retrieved from Merriam Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/follower
Huntinghouse, J. (2013, December 15). The Importance of the First Follower. Retrieved from LDS Smile: http://www.ldssmile.com/2013/12/15/importance-first-follower/