Authentic leadership in nursing: creating healthy work environments

Unhealthy work environments contribute to medical errors, ineffective delivery of care, and stress of healthcare employees. These undesirable consequences pose a significant burden on healthcare organizations and efforts to improve nurse work environments must be undertaken. A healthy work environment is one that is productive, produces quality care, is satisfying, and meets personal needs. It is the totality of all factors that influence job satisfaction and performance. Authentic leadership is proposed as the foundation of effective leadership needed to build trust and healthier work environments. Authentic leadership emphasizes the character of the leader through the four dimensions of self-awareness, balanced processing, transparency, and internalized moral perspective. Empirical evidence has emerged linking authentic leadership with positive patient and nurse outcomes, such as enhanced patient care quality, work engagement, and job satisfaction. Evidence-based strategies of authentic leadership development within a training program context have not been conclusively established. Post-graduate education may be the best method to prepare nurses to lead authentically. Healthcare organizations must take the lead in fostering authentic leadership. Healthcare organizations have the opportunity to develop authentic leaders who will create healthy work environments, an essential component of enhancing patient care quality and maintaining an adequate nursing workforce.