Purpose: In order to provide guidance and prepare ward managers for future crisis situations similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, the aim of this study was to reflect and learn how person-centred nursing leadership may be strengthened in such situations.
Background: The pandemic has forced nurse leaders to face new challenges. Knowledge about their experiences may contribute to advancing leadership practices in times of future crises.
Methods: A qualitative directed content analysis was chosen. The theoretical perspective was person-centred leadership. Thirteen ward managers from a Danish university hospital were included and interviewed using telephone interviews three months after the first national COVID-19 case was confirmed.
Findings: The main findings of the study revealed that the ward managers often experienced a lack of timely, relevant information, involvement in decision-making and acknowledgement from the head nurse of department and the executive management. This was caused by the existing organizational cultures and the traditional hierarchy of communication. This meant that the ward managers' sense of own competences and leadership values and beliefs came under high pressure when they had to balance different stakeholders' needs.
Conclusion: When the experience of ward managers results in them being unable to lead authentically and competently in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of engagement can occur, with serious consequences for patients, staff and the ward managers themselves. Traditional organizational cultures that are hierarchical and controlling needs to be challenged and reoriented towards collaborative, inclusive and participative practices of engagement and involvement. Leadership development must be an established and integrated component of organizations, so that ward managers are able to sustain person-centred ways of being and doing in times of crisis.