Academic journal article Perspectives in Psychiatric Care

Power and Leadership in Psychiatric Nursing: Directions for the Next Century

Academic journal article Perspectives in Psychiatric Care

Power and Leadership in Psychiatric Nursing: Directions for the Next Century

Article excerpt

TOPIC. Power and leadership in psychiatric nursing PURPOSE. To describe power, leadership, and their relationship to psychiatric nursing, with suggestions for the future of the discipline SOURCE. Review of literature and author's observations of the discipline CONCLUSIONS. The relationship of power and leadership focuses on leader qualities, a model for the inter-relationship of leaders and colleagues, and the leader's achievement of a power position. Key words: Leadership, power, psychiatric nursing

Despite major strides in recent years, nurses have suffered from a lack of power individually and collectively. Understanding the nature of power and its relationship to quality leadership is essential for nurses to determine their future. This article defines power, explores nurses' lack of power, and examines how the effective use of power can help nurses define and control their practice.

Power Defined

Power has long been a human concern as people have tried to exert influence upon and dominate others. Freud (1932) theorized that from the beginning of man's evolution, there was domination by whoever had the greater might. Rollo May (1972) concurred:

Power is essential for all living things. Man in

particular, cast upon this barren crust of earth eons ago

with the hope and requirement that he survive, finds

that he must use his powers and confront opposing forces at

every point in his struggle with earth and his fellows (p. 19).

Power has become a contemporary issue as those without power try to claim or achieve it. Some believe the major thrust of nursing is to "empower" people to stay well or to cope with illness. For example, Heifner (1996) suggested that depressed women must be empowered to explore their interpersonal environments and seek more satisfying situations.

There is a tendency to look toward power as a panacea for all human ills. One explanation is that by attributing all one's problems to a lack of power, one does not have to feel accountable for finding a solution since power is perceived as unachievable. This misconception of power as a cure-all, however, does not deny its utility.

The word "power" comes from the Latin verb "potere," meaning "to be able." In its simplest form, power is the ability to affect something or be affected by something (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1982). Yoder and Kahn (1992) noted the definition of power should center on the difference between "power over," the domination and control of one person by another, and "power to" or personal empowerment.

Historically, nurses have looked upon power as negative (Marquis & Huston, 1988). According to Nichols (1991), nurses have a love-hate orientation toward power. Nurses are challenged and obsessed with defining what it is and how to use it. However, in the work place and political arena, they often recoil from applying it to advance the nursing profession.

Power as Security

Freud, Adler, Maslow, and Burns focused on power as a means to achieve a sense of security. Freud (1932) discussed the craving of power as the struggle for survival, writing that power was achieved by the domination of others by brute violence or violence supported by intellect. Adler (1946) similarly maintained that one strives for power to ensure a sense of survival. "When one's feelings of inferiority are intensified, he fears he may never be able to compensate and more than wish to restore the balance of power . . . The striving for power and dominance may become exaggerated" (p. 71). Maslow (1954) asserted that the generally insecure person needs power and demonstrates this through overambition, overaggressiveness, possessiveness, overcompetitiveness, a tendency toward prejudice and hatred, submissiveness, and masochistic tendencies. Later, Maslow (1968) discussed a more positive need for power. He advocated "power" to actualize potential, calling this "self-actualization" to transcend existence. …

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