Employee job satisfaction is a fundamental factor for organizational success (Boamah, Spence Laschinger, Wong, & Clarke, 2018). Evidence in the literature suggests that (a) employees with high job satisfaction levels are likely to be more productive and exert more effort in pursuing organizational interests, and (b) job satisfaction can make a difference in keeping qualified workers on the job (Derby-Davis, 2014; Morsiani, Bagnasco, & Sasso, 2017). Thus, assessment of employee attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction), physical and psychological health, and environmental dimensions has become a frequent activity in organizations concerned with employee turnover (Bateh, 2016), including in schools of nursing.
The recruitment and retention of nursing faculty is a growing concern in the United States and a major challenge for deans and directors of schools of nursing. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN, 2019), nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2018 due to insufficient number of clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical preceptors. However, most respondents pointed to insufficient faculty as a predominant reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into baccalaureate programs. Reasons for faculty shortages are multifactorial and complex. Specific issues associated with both recruitment and retention of nursing faculty include an aging workforce, perceptions of excessive workloads and undercompensation, lack of qualified applicants, lack of mentorship, workplace culture, and ineffective leadership styles (Lee, Miller, Kippenbrock, Rosen, & Emory, 2017). A confluence of these factors may result in suboptimal job satisfaction: burnout, cynicism, decreased productivity, and isolation from students and work-related activities (Thomas, Bantz, & McIntosh, 2019). These experiences result in increased turnover, earlier retirements, and decisions to leave the discipline. Nursing faculty shortages ultimately yield a smaller overall nursing workforce—a serious problem, as more nurses are needed to provide increasingly complex care to an aging and chronically ill population (Tourangeau et al., 2014).
Conversely, faculty who have higher job satisfaction are more likely to be retained (Bateh, 2016), increasing the potential for improved downstream results. Therefore, addressing nursing faculty job satisfaction is imperative, as health care delivery systems are faced with a shortage of nurses and nurse educators at national and state levels. Leadership style is a major factor related to job satisfaction (Lee et al., 2017) and potentially recruitment and retention of nursing faculty.
Leadership researchers have focused primarily on one of three veins of research. Some have focused on personality, physical traits, or behaviors of leaders that contribute to a particular leadership style (Bass, 1985). Others have investigated the relationships between leaders and followers. Still others have explored how various aspects of a situation influence a leader's reaction (Northouse, 2018a). In the field of education, an abundance of empirical evidence exists on leadership styles in K-12 settings. For example, previous research has shown that principals' leadership styles can influence teacher job satisfaction, affect work performance, and impact student performance (Baptiste, 2019; Kars & Inandi, 2018; Mehdinezhad & Mansouri, 2016; Rana, Malik, & Hussain, 2016). Further, another study (Ch, Ahmad, Malik, & Batool, 2017) revealed that principals' democratic leadership was positive and significantly linked to teachers' job satisfaction. However, little research focuses on higher education, and even less focuses on the nursing discipline. Surprisingly limited information exists regarding the leadership styles, practices, effectiveness of nursing deans, and how their personal attributes influence faculty job satisfaction.
The growth of higher education administration and invention of the college dean position were implemented after the Civil War. This expansion was a response to an increase in enrollment, along with requests for new and additional services (Cohen & Kisker, 2010). Over the past two decades, the role of nursing deans has undergone significant changes, becoming increasingly multifaceted, challenging, and often ambiguous. As a leader in higher education, the nursing dean faces various responsibilities and challenges that evolve with the rapidly changing landscape of health care, higher education, and leadership.
Today, academic nursing deans have even more multidimensional responsibilities, as their main role has migrated away from student affairs and moved toward administrative obligations, with a focus on faculty leadership (Justice, 2019). In addition to being charged with overseeing the daily operations of the organization (e.g., budget, facilities, and human resources) and partnership development, academic deans set objectives, establish policies, assess performance, and develop faculty. Further, nursing deans and faculty employed by large public universities with very high research activity are faced with more complex challenges than those at other smaller, less research-focused institutions. In institutions with higher levels of academic specialization, such as research and doctoral-granting institutions, the number of academic deans and faculty are larger and more diverse to accommodate the unique leadership cultures of the various academic programs in the institutions (Buller, 2015). Successful deans find a balance between upholding institutional policies, supporting faculty governance, and meeting faculty expectations (Buller, 2015; Giddens, 2018). Leadership styles needed to effectively perform the various duties assigned to a dean continue to change as the academic environment evolves.
The purpose of this study was to identify leadership styles of nursing deans and correlational patterns with nursing faculty job satisfaction. Specific research questions were:
- Research question 1: What are the leadership styles (laissez-faire, transactional, and transformational) of nursing deans as perceived by nursing faculty?
- Research question 2: What is the level of faculty job satisfaction?
- Research question 3: What, if any, relationships exist between perceived leadership styles of deans and nursing faculty job satisfaction?
- Research question 4: While controlling for selected demographic variables, to what extent do the leadership styles of nursing deans, as perceived by nursing faculty, predict faculty job satisfaction levels?
The study was guided by the Full Range Leadership (FRL™) model by Bass and Avolio (1993, 1994, 2004), a model of transformational leadership largely based on Burn's (1978) conceptualization. Based on more than 100 years of leadership research, it is the most widely adopted leadership model to adequately measure effective leadership theory and styles (Bass & Riggio, 2006). The model consists of three constructs representing distinct leadership styles, including laissez-faire, transactional, and transformational. Leaders practice all three styles to some degree, depending on what leadership style is necessitated by individual situations (Bass & Avolio, 2004). Specifically, the model ranges from (a) the passive/avoidant approach of the laissez-faire leadership style, in which the leader does not make decisions and avoids responsibility, to (b) the contingent reward practices of the transactional leadership style, in which the leader offers material rewards for success and punishment for failure, to (c) the visionary transformational leadership style, in which the leader aims to develop individual qualities.
Laissez-faire leadership (also known as passive/avoidant) is defined as the avoidance or absence of leadership, and thus is neither transactional nor transformational (Bass, 1985). This type of leader ignores responsibility, avoids decisions, and does not monitor the performance or development of subordinates. In addition, the laissez-faire leader delegates too much responsibility to subordinates and sets no clear goals (Burns, 1978).
Transactional leadership differs from transformational leadership in that the transactional leader does not individualize the needs of subordinates or focus on their personal development. Although transformational leadership seeks to inspire followers to exceed their own and the leader's expectations, transactional leadership motivates by offering material rewards for success and punishment for failure. Components of transactional leadership behaviors, including contingent reward, passive management-by-exception, and active management-by-exception (Bass & Avolio, 2004; Kouzes & Posner, 2007).
Bryman (1992) described transformational leadership as the “new leadership” paradigm, with concepts including charismatic, visionary, inspirational, values-oriented, and change-orientated leadership. Transformational leadership is a process that changes and transforms individuals. It is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals, and includes assessing followers' motives, satisfying their needs and treating them with respect (Northouse, 2018b). Over time, four distant types of transformational behaviors have evolved; these “Four Is” include Idealized influence, Individualized consideration, Inspirational motivation, and Intellectual stimulation (Bass & Avolio, 2004; Kouzes & Posner, 2007). Leaders with a transformational leadership style influence followers to accomplish more than what is usually expected of them by raising followers' level of awareness about the importance of outcomes and ways to achieve success; inspiring followers to set higher standards for their individual goals and develop strategies to attain them; and moving followers' level of need on Maslow's hierarchy toward self-actualization (Bass, 1985; Northouse, 2018b).
This theory-informed, descriptive, correlational study was conducted in 2015. Nursing faculty employed at public U.S. universities with very high research activity were recruited via e-mail.
Setting and Sample
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education was used to identify public U.S. universities with very high research activity. Seventy-three universities met the inclusion criteria and were then assigned to one of five geographical regions (i.e., West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest). Using random sampling, five universities were selected for each geographical region, for a total of 25 targeted universities. An informational e-mail was then sent to each respective nursing dean detailing the purpose of the study; one institution requested their faculty not be contacted for the study. Ultimately, faculty from 24 institutions were solicited.
To qualify for the study, each participant was required to be a full-time nursing faculty (including instructors, assistant professors, associate professors, and professors) at one of the targeted institutions, and have earned a degree of baccalaureate, master, or doctorate in nursing. Both male and female faculty members were invited to participate.
To explore research question 1, the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire 5x-Short (MLQ-5x) instrument was used to measure the leadership style of the nursing deans. Developed by Bass and Avolio (1993), it operationalizes the FRL model constructs of laissez-faire, transactional, and transformational leadership styles. The MLQ-5x is a 45-item questionnaire with nine subscales:
- Five items in the transformational scale: idealized attributes, idealized behaviors, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration.
- Three items in the transactional scale: contingent reward, management-by-exception (active), and management-by-exception (passive).
- One item in the laissez-faire scale.
The higher the scores are on individualized consideration and motivation factors (5-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 [not at all] to 4 [frequently, if not always]), the more the leader displays transformational leadership behaviors (Cronbach's α = .93; the nine subscales ranged from .74 to .90).
To explore research question 2, The Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ) was used to measure faculty job satisfaction. In this 20-item short form developed by Weiss, Dawis, England, and Lofquist (1967), data are captured using a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). A higher score on the MSQ represents a higher level of job satisfaction. The 20 questions were categorized into three sub-scales: general satisfaction (two questions; α = .93), intrinsic satisfaction (e.g., being challenged by your work, recognition, responsibility; 12 questions, α = .88), and extrinsic satisfaction (e.g., monetary compensation, awards, fringe benefits; six questions, α = .87).
The research project was approved by the university institutional review board prior to initiation of study activities. After identification of the targeted institutions, e-mail addresses of the deans were collected through university website directories. To promote unity and transparency, nursing deans were notified by e-mail that their faculty would be contacted by e-mail to participate in a research project. Faculty e-mail addresses were also collected through the university website directories. All faculty were given a description of the study, an assessment of minimal risk, a data collection time line, a request for the recipient's voluntary participation, a statement of anonymity, and contact information of the researcher for questions or concerns. This study used an opt-out consent form, in which faculty completion of the survey implied consent to participate in the research.
Faculty members were asked to complete the survey within 10 days of receiving the e-mail. Reminder e-mails were sent on the third and seventh days following the initial e-mail invitation. Two days before the initial deadline to complete the survey, a third e-mail reminding faculty to participate in the survey was sent, extending the deadline by 5 more business days to increase the response rates. Questionnaires were answered anonymously and kept confidential in the result reporting stage by removing identifying information about the faculty or the faculty's institution.
Data analysis included computation of both descriptive and inferential statistics using SAS/STAT® statistical software, version 9.4. For categorical variables, the univariate constructions included frequency distributions (Wagner, 2017). The continuous variables statistics included measures of central tendency (mean and median) and measure of spread (standard deviation and range). Inferential statistics included bivariate statistical tests, Pearson correlation, and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Multivariate methods, including the general linear model and multiple regression analysis, were also used to answer the research questions. The Cronbach's coefficient was calculated to estimate the internal consistency reliability of the scales. P values less than or equal to .05 were considered significant.
Descriptive analyses, including the computation of means, ranges, and standard deviations were employed to examine the leadership styles of deans as perceived by nursing faculty and the level of faculty job satisfaction. The results represented means and standard deviations of the total scale and nine subscales of the MLQ-5x, as well as the total scale and two subscales of the MSQ short form. Demographic characteristics of faculty and supervising dean, including faculty gender, age, educational level, primary job description, and years of teaching experience at current institution, and the dean's gender, tenure in deanship role, how long faculty has worked with dean in his/her deanship role, and amount of interaction the faculty has with the dean were evaluated for statistical significance.
Demographic and Organizational Characteristics of Sample
Ultimately, 303 participants responded (of 1,626 recruited, 19% participation rate), consisting of 270 women (89.4%) and 32 men (10.6%; Table 1). The majority were 51 years and older (n = 186, 62.4%), with an earned doctorate in nursing (n = 229, 77.6%). Most were assistant (n = 108, 36.6%) or associate (n = 81, 27.5%) professors. Less than 8% had taught for less than a year (n = 22).
Demographic Characteristics of the Sample (N = 303)
The majority of participants identified the gender of their dean as female (n = 264, 90.4%) with 4 to 10 years of experience in their deanship role. Most (71%) of the respondents had worked with their dean between 1 and 6 years. Although the type and quality of interactions were not assessed in this study, many (65%) reported rare to occasional interactions with their dean.
Perceived Leadership Style of Nursing Deans
The mean of the total scale of the MLQ-5X was 129.7 (SD = 37.3), with a range from 4.0 to 147.0. Participants perceived their respective deans to demonstrate transformational leadership styles (M = 66.3, SD = 21.2), followed by transactional leadership (M = 20.2, SD = 6.8), and finally laissez-faire leadership (M = 16.2, SD = 7.6). The highest item mean scores for the transformational leadership styles of nursing deans were inspirational motivation (M = 12.0, SD = 3.9), idealized behaviors (M = 10.9, SD = 4.2), and idealized attributes (M = 10.2, SD = 4.7). Conversely, management-by-exception (active; M = 5.2, SD = 3.6), management-by-exception (passive; M = 4.9, SD = 3.8), and laissez-faire (M = 4.4, SD = 3.8) leadership styles represented the lowest item mean scores in the leadership styles of nursing deans, as perceived by nursing faculty.
Perceived Job Satisfaction of Nursing Faculty
The mean scores of the MSQ short form were (M = 75.5, SD = 14.3) for the general satisfaction scale, (M = 48.8, SD = 7.8) for the intrinsic satisfaction subscale, and (M = 19.4, SD = 5.7) for the extrinsic satisfaction subscale (Table 2).
Summary of the Total and Subscales of the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire Short Form
MSQ short form percentile scores of 25 or lower indicates a low job satisfaction level, percentile scores between 26 and 74 indicate moderate satisfaction, and percentile scores of 75 or higher represents a high job satisfaction level. For general satisfaction percentile scales, 25.5% reported low job satisfaction, 51.3% reported moderate job satisfaction, and 23.2% reported high job satisfaction; taken together, these numbers represent a moderate job satisfaction level. On the intrinsic satisfaction subscale, 26.8% of participants reported low job satisfaction, 49% reported as moderate, and 24.2% reported as high, which altogether represent a moderate level of job satisfaction. For the extrinsic satisfaction subscale, 28.7% participants reported low job satisfaction, 50% reported moderate, and 21.3% reported high, which also represents an overall moderate level of job satisfaction.
Correlation Between Leadership Styles and Job Satisfaction
To explore research question 3, bivariate correlation and simple linear regression were used to characterize correlations between perceived leadership styles of deans (based on faculty member perceptions, not the deans themselves) and nursing faculty job satisfaction. There was a positive weak to moderate correlation between nurse job satisfaction (general, intrinsic, and extrinsic) and leadership styles of deans (transformational and transactional), with a range of correlation between .30 and .72 (Table 3). However, there was a weak negative correlation between nurse faculty job satisfaction (general, intrinsic, and extrinsic) and laissez-faire leadership styles of deans, with a range of correlation between −.38 to −.52.
Summary of Pearson Correlation Coefficients for Job Satisfaction and Leadership Style Variables (N = 298)
Although a simple linear regression revealed a positive association between job satisfaction and the transformational and transactional leadership styles, it was negative for the laissez-faire leadership style. These results were similar to findings by Bateh (2016), Boamah et al. (2018), and Giddens (2018). Research question 2 results indicated that transformational leadership style explained 42% of general, 26% of intrinsic, and 52% of extrinsic job satisfaction; transactional leadership style explained 13% of general, 9% of intrinsic, and 14% of extrinsic job satisfaction; and laissez-faire leadership style explained 23% of general, 14% of intrinsic, and 27% of extrinsic job satisfaction (Table 4).
Simple Linear Regression for Perceived Dean's Leadership (MLQ-5X) on Faculty Job Satisfaction (MSQ)
The Pearson's r correlation was computed to examine significant relationships between the continuous variables of the nine subscales of the MLQ-5x and nursing faculty job satisfaction levels. The correlation coefficients were statistically significant for all the nine subscales and nursing faculty job satisfaction levels. The nursing deans' transformational leadership style of idealized attributes (r = .66) was the highest significant and positive predictor of the level of nursing faculty job satisfaction. Equally, the nursing deans' transformational leadership style of individual consideration (r = .65) and transactional leadership style of contingent reward (r = .65) were the second highest significant and positive predictors of the level of nursing faculty job satisfaction. The nursing deans' laissez-faire leadership style of laissez-faire (r = −.48) was the lowest significant and negative predictor of the level of nursing faculty job satisfaction. For this population, nursing deans' use of the transformational leadership style of attributed idealized influence was the highest significant and positive predictor of the level of nursing faculty job satisfaction. However, when nursing deans used the laissez-faire leadership style, it significantly and negatively predicted nursing faculty job satisfaction levels.
Relationship Between Demographic Variables to Leadership Styles and Job Satisfaction
For research question 4, one-way ANOVA was used to examine the difference of means for the total scale and nine sub-scales of the perceived leadership style of the dean (MLQ-5x) and the total scale and two subscales of faculty job satisfaction (MSQ) short form for research question four. Two specific relationships were found to be significant. Faculty whose primary job description was reported as “instructor” represented the lowest MLQ-5x scores (p < .000). Additionally, the fewer years of faculty tenure, the lower the score for frequency of interaction with the dean (p < .000).
Professional demands on university deans escalate with increased responsibilities in administration, resulting in reduced attention to faculty members and academic issues (Wolverton, Wolverton, & Gmelch, 1999). By changing the culture of an institution through effective transformational leadership, nursing deans can indirectly influence the motivation and behavior of organization members (Giddens, 2018). Yet, academic nursing deans typically rise to their positions from academic ranks as faculty themselves, with little to no training for their new roles and responsibilities (Chen & Baron, 2006; Wolverton et al., 1999). The knowledge obtained from this study can contribute to the field of nursing education by encouraging nursing schools to develop executive leadership fellowship or training models tailored specifically for aspiring, new, and current nursing program deans, directors, and department heads. These models will support nursing education leaders to develop more effective leadership styles thorough skill development, role modeling, support and counseling, mentoring, and networking (Nowell, Norris, Mrklas, & White, 2017). As a result, these study findings may contribute to the ongoing professional development of nurse leaders and faculty by disseminating information concerning leadership styles that have the potential to reduce nursing faculty attrition in public, high research institutions.
Overall, demographics and organizational characteristics of this study cohort were relatively similar to those reported by Derby-Davis (2014) and National League for Nursing (NLN, 2019). In this population, nursing deans tended to display transformational leadership style more frequently than transactional and laissez-faire leadership styles, a finding similar to previous research (Boamah et al., 2018; Giddens, 2018; & Northouse, 2018b). The comprehensive nursing faculty job satisfaction as reported by participants in this study represented a moderate job satisfaction level, which was similar to earlier findings (Cohen & Baron, 2006).
The results of this study suggest that nursing deans who practice transformational leadership share the following characteristics: they care about their faculty as individuals; they emphasize the importance of having a collective sense of mission; they set personal examples of what is expected; they seek feedback from faculty; they follow through on promises and commitments; and they talk optimistically and enthusiastically about the future (Bass & Avolio, 2004). When nursing deans demonstrate these traits, their nursing faculty members are often more satisfied with their jobs.
Because the topic of nursing deans' leadership styles and nursing faculty job satisfaction levels is still a sensitive one in many hierarchical nursing educational systems, this study may help nursing deans pay closer attention to the issues of leadership styles and their relationship to faculty job satisfaction not only nationally but internationally. Future studies should compare the leadership styles as perceived by the dean concurrently with the faculty members' perceptions of the dean's leadership style. Additionally, future research should take a longitudinal approach in exploring these issues, as this represents an advantage over cross-sectional research designs when seeking to explore causal relationships.
There are limitations to the current study. The data from these surveys are now 4 years old. However, participant demographics are similar to those in the most recent report by the NLN (2019). Specifically, based on full-time nurse educator participants in the NLN report, they are predominantly female (93.2%), over the age of 40, and with a master's or doctoral education, reflecting the demographics of the participants in this study. Faculty and nursing shortages have continued to increase, while funding needed to hire and retain nursing faculty has continued to decrease. Therefore, some of the same issues these faculty who completed the survey 4 years ago have certainly remained relevant, if not more pronounced, in today's higher education settings. This research focused on public universities with a very high research activity level; thus, findings cannot be generalized to community, privately funded, or profit-driven institutions. The cross-sectional design of this study, which examined subjects at one point in time, may not fully capture the influence that leadership styles of nursing deans have on nursing faculty job satisfaction. Finally, this study focused on faculty member perceptions of their dean's leadership style, not the deans themselves. If the degree of interaction between dean and faculty members was low (as some reported), it may have hindered the faculty member's ability to appropriately answer specific questions about the dean's leadership style.
As there are many other variables other than the leadership style of the dean that may influence the job satisfaction of nursing faculty members, these results cannot alone explain nursing faculty attrition. Future research should assess nursing deans' self-perception of leadership styles, the degree to which the faculty interact with the dean, whether the dean's role includes workload or performance evaluation, and the influence and leadership styles of other administrators to whom the faculty report (e.g., program chairs, coordinators, directors).
Effective leadership is both a dynamic process in which a person influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal and a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow (Northouse, 2018b). Thus, effective leaders transform followers, create visions of the goals to be obtained, and articulate for followers the ways to attain those goals (Bass, 1985). In most organizations, some form of leadership is exercised by individuals who occupy positions of power. However, when evaluating the attributes of leadership, it is imperative to recognize the distinction between the execution of technical responsibilities and the exercise of leadership. This is the first study to explore perceived leadership styles of nursing deans, based upon faculty members' input, not the dean themselves, and correlation with nursing faculty job satisfaction at public universities with very high research activity in the United States. Given the potential interaction of job satisfaction with faculty turnover, productivity, and other performance elements, the results of this study may be used to assist in maximizing the effectiveness of nursing faculty. The results of this study may also provide academic nursing leaders with information to guide leadership behaviors that impact their faculty, lead them to improve and adjust their leadership styles, and potentially increase nursing faculty job satisfaction.
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Demographic Characteristics of the Sample (N = 303)
| > 51||186||62.4|
|Primary job description|
| Assistant professor||108||36.6|
| Associate professor||81||27.5|
|Faculty tenure (years)|
|Dean in deanship role (years)|
|Faculty tenure with dean (years)|
|Faculty interaction with dean|
| A moderate amount||70||23.1|
| A great deal||29||9.6|
Summary of the Total and Subscales of the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire Short Forma
|Scale or Subscale||N||M||SD||Min||Max||Normb: M||Norm: SD|
Summary of Pearson Correlation Coefficients for Job Satisfaction and Leadership Style Variables (N = 298)
Simple Linear Regression for Perceived Dean's Leadership (MLQ-5X) on Faculty Job Satisfaction (MSQ)
|Variablea||General Satisfactionb||Intrinsic Satisfactionc||Extrinsic Satisfactiond|