By John Nelson, PhD Candidate, UMN School of Nursing
Caring is usually thought of in the context of caring for the vulnerable. Examples include parents caring for children, healthcare workers caring for patients, and spiritual leaders caring for the spiritually distraught. Parcells and Nelson (2011) have reviewed how caring enhances the release of healing hormones through the body and enhances critical thinking. If this theory is indeed true, it would be reasonable to propose leaders should exemplify caring to those around them to enhance both health and critical thinking of individuals they are leading.
Recent research is seeking to understand the relationship of caring leaders and outcomes. Thus and Kellow (2011) created a measure to study "virtuous leadership," in which they propose three leadership factors: 1) Wisdom, 2) Humanity, and 3) Temperance. Combined, these three factors explained 59% of the latent variable of Virtuous Leadership. In order to measure "humanity," Thus and Kellow examined "kindness" and "love." Kindness was examined by measuring the leader's generosity of sharing time and resources while love was measured by the leader's level of compassionate caring.
The lovingkindness of leaders is also currently being studied in the field of nursing. Olender and Phifer (2011) have developed a measure to examine nurses' perception of the level of caring of their unit manager: The Caring Factor Survey. A study is currently underway to use this tool to study the relationship of manager caring and lateral violence amongst nursing staff.
Development of thoeries of leadership that include concepts like caring may initiate research into how leadership can go beyond productivity and teamwork to creativity and employee health. The cited theories and studies will hopefully stimulate thought, discussion, and research in new avenues of leadership development.
John Nelson is a PhD candidate in the UMN School of Nursing and a member of the 2012 - 13 CIL Student Leadership Team.
Parcells, D. A., & Nelson, J. W. (2011). Taking the "Quantum Leap": Biochemical markers of Human Caring Science. In J. W. Nelson & J. Watson (Eds.), Measuring Caring: A compilation of international research on Caritas as Healing intervention. New York: Springer.
Thun, B., & Kelloway, K. (2011). Virtuous leaders: Assessing character strengths in the workplace. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 28, 270-283. doi: 10.1002/CJAS.216
Olender, L., & Phifer, S. (2011). Development of the Caring Factor Survey - Caring of Manager (CFS-CM). In J. W. Nelson & J. Watson (Eds.), Measuring Caring: A compilation of international research on Caritas as Healing intervention. New York: Springer.