Leadership in Nursing | The Importance of the Transformational Leadership Style
What is the best leadership style for leaders in nursing?
There are many factors that go into what makes a good nurse leader. A leader needs to be organized, empathetic, and able to earn the respect of the nurses they lead so their directions will be followed.
The transformational leadership style in nursing is one that checks many of these boxes, which is why it is considered one of the best leadership styles.
But, is transformational leadership in nursing practice the best style to use? What are the other different leadership styles in nursing? What are the pros and cons?
What Will You Learn from This Guide?
In this year’s top AGS article, we are going to explore both transactional and transformational leadership in nursing, as well as the leadership in the nursing definition.
We’ll discuss the importance of leadership in nursing and why the transformational leadership style in nursing is seen as one of the best. We’ll begin by explaining in full what transformational leadership means and then discuss how it’s connected to good examples of leadership in nursing.
Nursing Leadership Qualities and Behaviors
What You’ll Learn from this Transformational Leadership in Nursing Guide:
- Nursing Leadership Styles
- Are You a Transformational Leader?
- Why is Transformational Leadership Effective in Nursing?
- Example(s) of Transformational Leadership in Nursing
- What is Transformational Leadership Theory?
- Brief History of Transformational Leadership
- What are the Characteristics of a Transformational Leader?
- What are the Four Elements of Transformational Leadership?
- What are the Advantages of Transformational Leadership?
- What are the Weaknesses of Transformational Leadership?
- What is Transformational Leadership in Healthcare?
- What is Transformational Leadership in Nursing?
- Qualities: What is Transformational Leadership Style in Nursing?
- What are the 5 Leadership Styles in Nursing?
- Is Transformational Leadership Effective in Nursing?
- Why is Transformational Leadership Important in Healthcare?
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Nursing Leadership Styles
In the past, nursing was often seen as a supporting role for physicians. Still, in actuality, nurses are the main component of any health care facility, responsible for leading and directing multiple activities. Leadership in nursing practice is an integral part of the healthcare industry as a whole.
Those who have risen to the ranks of managing other nurses and health professionals have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.
Leadership in nursing ensures that strict qualities of patient care are being delivered, regulations and guidelines are being followed, and that their team is working toward optimum patient care at all times.
Just as with any other industry, the leadership styles in nursing can vary. Some leadership qualities in nursing can bring out the best in people and motivate them towards a common good. Transformational leadership in nursing is one of these.
Other nursing leadership and management styles, like transactional leadership in nursing, can cause resentment among other nurses and potential problems with the quality of patient care.
In fact, there have been direct connections between the quality of care and leadership theories in nursing (we’ll get into these deeper in this article). They suggest that the leadership skills in nursing shown by a lead nurse can either improve or impair patient outcomes and care.
What is Transformational Leadership Theory?
When you’re researching types of leadership in nursing or trying to find a nursing leadership and management PDF, the transformational leadership theory is one you’ll see mentioned often.
Transformational leadership theory describes a type of leader that motivates and inspires others, earns the respect of their team, and takes the time to build up each person under their leadership.
This type of leader tends to be charismatic, an innovator, and very nurturing to those that follow them; this in turn, earns them admiration. Transformational leadership in nursing can help ensure a leader is followed because their team feels valued and respected.
Brief History of Transformational Leadership
Sociologist James Downton initially put forth the idea of transformational leadership in his 1973 book, Rebel Leadership: Commitment and Charisma in the Revolutionary Process.
The idea was then further fleshed out a few years later by historian James MacGregor Burns. In 1978, he created the Transformational Leadership Theory, putting more definition into the characteristics of this type of leader.
He became interested in transformational leadership in WWII when he noticed that leaders at lower ranks with certain leadership styles could earn more admiration and be better motivators of soldiers than leaders at higher ranks.
Then in 1985, leadership scholar Bernard Bass came up with the four elements of transformational leadership, which describe qualities that anyone with this leadership style needs to have.
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What are the Characteristics of a Transformational Leader?
When nurses study applied leadership in nursing, they’ll find the transformational leadership theory noted as one of the most popular leadership models in nursing. This is because of the characteristics typically found in these types of leaders.
It’s important to note that transformational leadership in nursing examples don’t only include people “born with” certain qualities. While a natural charisma and ability to connect with people is definitely helpful, the transformational leadership theory nursing uses can be learned.
The following are some of the standard characteristics of those considered “transformational leaders.”
- They work to develop a feeling of “team” and “us”
- They lead by example and work hard alongside their team
- They expect much of themselves, and in turn, much of their team
- They take the time to nurture and mentor individuals on their team
- They drive innovation and continual improvement
- They have the ability to articulate a vision that inspires others
- They value the input of their team
- Then make their team feel valued and welcome their input
- They lead by motivating, rather than by punishment/reward
Further in the article, we’ll discuss the characteristics of a transformational leader as they relate to good leadership in nursing, specifically.
What are the Four Elements of Transformational Leadership?
When studying, “Why is leadership important in nursing?”, learning the four elements of transformational leadership, also known as the 4I’s of transformational leadership, can be helpful.
These four elements, which were developed by Bernard Bass, were designed to help measure the effectiveness of this leadership style and illustrate key qualities others could learn to adopt.
Effective communication in nursing leadership falls directly within these four elements, as well as the ability to coach and mentor a team effectively. For anyone studying effective leadership in nursing, these four elements can be a key to building great relationships with team members.
Here’s an overview of each of the 4 elements of transformational leadership.
Idealized influence relates to setting a good example for others to follow. When reviewing information on this topic online or in leadership styles in nursing PDF, you’ll find that being able to influence people by your example is one of the best ways to motivate them.
Transformational leaders in nursing or any other industry will typically have a good moral compass and a passion for what they do, which in turn helps to positively influence those they’re leading. Charisma and determination are also traits that facilitate idealized influence.
Leadership management and team working in nursing require excellent communication skills; this is one of the things that helps a transformational leader inspire and motive others.
They are able to articulate a clear vision and communicate that to their team with passion and commitment. This belief in themselves and others inspires those around them and motivates those they lead to do their best.
While other types of leadership styles in nursing may demand followers to just do as they’re told and not “rock the boat,” the transformational leader prizes thinking outside the box to find better ways of doing things.
They encourage creativity and other methods of intellectual stimulation among their team and invite their input and ideas. Team members can contribute without fear of ridicule or being dismissed. This is why transformational leadership in nursing practice often initiates quality improvements in an organization.
Transformational leadership goes beyond the democratic leadership style in nursing. This type of leader takes the time to get to know each individual on their team. They learn their motivations, strengths, and weaknesses and put the time in to mentor them.
Of all the nursing leadership competencies, mentoring and genuinely caring about each person under their leadership is one of the biggest reasons transformational leaders are often loved and respected above those with other leadership styles in nursing management.
What are the Advantages of Transformational Leadership?
When applying the transformational leadership style to principles of leadership in nursing, it’s important to know that there are both advantages and weaknesses of this style.
For those championing nursing leadership development, being aware of all facets of transformational leadership can help them adopt the best practices while avoiding any of the limitations.
Here are the advantages of this style and of using transformational leadership in nursing leadership training.
People Follow Direction Because of Respect
One of the differences between transactional and transformational leadership in nursing is how motivated people are to follow directions. In a medical environment, it’s vital that people don’t take any shortcuts.
While transactional leadership in nursing can make people afraid to admit a mistake and motives by the carrot or the stick, transformational leadership qualities in nursing inspire mutual respect and feeling of loyalty, which is a better overall motivator.
They Continually Innovate & Can Drive Change
Problem-solving techniques in nursing leadership are important, and that includes being able to innovate better solutions. The drive to continually innovate is what often helps healthcare organizations evolve and improve their efficiency.
The ability to conceptualize a plan in a clear vision helps this type of leader be an effective driver of change in an organization.
They Improve Employee Morale
When looking through a management and leadership for nurse administrators PDF or presentation, employee morale is often mentioned as an important element to the health of any organization.
If employees have low morale due to poor leadership, they can make mistakes, just stop caring, and cause organizations to have high turnover rates.
Different types of leadership in nursing will impact employee morale in different ways. Transformation leadership is one of the best leadership styles in nursing management if you want to keep employees happy and feeling good about their work.
They Mentor Employees into Leaders
Gaining effective leadership skills in nursing is a learning process. Due to the intense pressure that many nurses are under on a daily basis to care for patients and follow strict healthcare guidelines, there’s not always time for personal development.
Transformational leaders will take the time not just to lead but to teach good leadership skills in nursing to individuals that display leadership qualities. This improves the health of an organization because they have nurses learning effective leadership in nursing management that can be advanced to take leadership positions in the future.
What are the Weaknesses of Transformational Leadership?
Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the transformational leadership style in nursing to see what drawbacks this style has.
When searching for ways to develop good leadership styles in nursing, it’s important to understand both the good and the bad of any style. Not all leadership and management tools for the new nurse PDF or PPT content you find will include the “cons” along with the “pros.”
Here are some of the weaknesses of using this style when considering how to demonstrate leadership in nursing.
Does Not Always Fit in Well with Bureaucracy
Of all the leadership theories in nursing, this one doesn’t always fit in well with a rigid bureaucracy. This is because transformational leaders are always looking to innovate and teach their team to think outside that box.
Some may see a “free-wheeling” attitude and desire to change the status quo as weak leadership skills in nursing.
It Can Be Harder for them to Fire People
One big part of the answer to, “What is leadership in nursing?” is that sometimes leadership means doing unpleasant things, like firing employees.
The close relationship that this type of leader forms with those they lead has its advantages, but it can also mean that they want to keep people longer than they should or have a tough time reprimanding or firing them.
They Can Be a Powerful Opposition
Because of the intense loyalty and respect that transformational leaders inspire in their teams, it means if there is a person or rule that they don’t agree with, they have the power to lead a powerful opposition.
This can cause friction within a healthcare organization with an inspirational leader being seen as having too much power with the staff. Their team can be more loyal to the leader than they are to the organization.
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What is Transformational Leadership in Healthcare?
Leadership is important in any industry, but the importance of leadership in nursing and healthcare is especially apparent. The healthcare industry deals with everyone’s health and wellbeing, and poor leadership in healthcare can have dire consequences.
Transformational leadership in healthcare is a driver of improvements in multiple areas. Nursing leadership qualities and behaviors that follow this style can:
- Help organizations adopt new technology
- Be drivers for better patient treatments
- Help healthcare facilities reduce costs
- Innovate to keep a facility competitive
- Inspire others to be team players
- Encourage physicians and nurses alike to be supportive of a change
Healthcare is a field that continually changes due to updates in patient treatments, technology, medications, patient behaviors, and multiple other factors. You’ll often find transformational leadership mentioned when it comes to change management.
Without transformational leaders in healthcare, it would be much more difficult for organizations to innovate and be able to make the changes they need to continually improve and remain competitive.
What is Transformational Leadership in Nursing?
The transformational leadership nursing definition may include a leader that’s a “people person” that sets a good example for the hospital, and that demands the best of themselves and others.
One way that transformational leadership in nursing slightly differs from what you’ll find when reading about this style, in general, is that in other areas, you may hear that a disadvantage of this style can be a lack of detail.
However, when it comes to examples of leadership in nursing using this style, you’ll find the opposite.
Due to the need for applied leadership in nursing to understand and apply multiple safety protocols, rules, and regulations, this style when it comes to nursing is very detail-oriented in combination with being able to see the big picture view.
All types of leadership in nursing also need to consider patients and their quality of care, which adds another facet to the benefits of transformational leaders as nurses because the good will and motivation they foster in their team directly impacts patient care.
Qualities: What is Transformational Leadership Style in Nursing?
If you’re studying transformational leadership or reviewing a nursing leadership and management PDF, you’ll see several qualities noted that are specific to this leadership style in nursing.
We already discussed how transformational leadership in nursing examples could differ from those in other industries due to the profession they’re in and the impact they can have.
Here are some personal qualities that you’ll see connected to the qualities of a good nurse leader using the transformational style.
Of all the leadership models in nursing, the transformational leader is often described as “likable” both by those they lead and other professionals in their organization. Their empathy for others and the ability to build team spirit are contributing reasons for this.
Easy to Work With
Transformational leaders have a confidence about them that doesn’t require their ego to be fed. This makes them easy to work with because they’re not trying to “one-up” someone and are happy to lift others up around them.
This style displays effective communication in nursing leadership, being able to come up with a driving vision and share that with others to motivate them. Their passion for what they do inspires others and gives everyone a common purpose.
When answering the question, “Why is leadership important in nursing?” one of the answers would be to set a good example, which includes upholding integrity. This leadership style earns the trust of their team by exemplifying honorable traits.
Problem-solving techniques in nursing leadership are vital to patient health and overcoming organizational challenges. This leadership style is an excellent problem solver, always looking for ways that things can be improved upon and done more effectively.
One of the hallmarks of this style of leadership in nursing practice is that they take the time to teach and mentor others to their full potential. Effective leadership in nursing means going beyond yourself and taking an interest in the development of others.
This is one of the qualities you’ll often see as an answer to, “What makes a good nurse leader.”
Transformational & Democratic Leadership Style in Nursing
What are the 5 Leadership Styles in Nursing?
When searching for a website or leadership styles in nursing PDF, you’ll run across five distinct types of leadership styles in nursing. This means that there are four other potential leadership styles beyond the transformational leadership theory nursing style.
Leadership management and team working in nursing can actually incorporate more than a single leadership style. Some will find that the best nursing leadership competencies incorporate the best parts of each different style.
Anyone that wants to understand the principles of leadership in nursing should become familiar with these 5 leadership styles in nursing. Both to identify them in others and understand how one or more may fit into your own leadership style.
Here is an overview of the different leadership styles in nursing.
1. Transformational Leadership
Leaders that are inspirational to their team and motivate them with a vision. In nursing leadership development, this leadership style will lead change and quality improvements within their organization. They also mentor and coach others and often create other leaders.
- Pros: Drives continuous improvement, well-liked by their team, gives people the freedom to be their best
- Cons: May cause friction in an organization, difficulty letting employees go
2. Democratic Leadership
Another style that exemplifies good leadership in nursing is the democratic leadership style. This type of leader seeks to put everyone at the same level of importance in the team and gets group input on all decisions. Nursing leadership training will often describe the democratic style as one where everyone feels comfortable giving their input.
- Pros: Allows for the best exchange of ideas, promotes a team spirit among employees
- Cons: Can make the decision-making process take too long, can leave some feeling left out by louder voices
3. Servant Leadership
You’ll see servant leadership mentioned as a new and growing style when reading management and leadership for nurse administrators PDF or PPT guides. In this style, the leader emphasizes serving first and foremost and leads by example.
In the case of effective leadership skills in nursing, emphasizing serving patients, and promoting a high quality of care would be desirable traits. This type of leader also is very caring and nurturing towards their team.
- Pros: Puts emphasis on the core mission of nursing, team members feel well taken care of and that they matter
- Cons: Servant leaders may not give enough direction to their team; they can set the bar too high for employees
4. Autocratic Leadership
Of the different types of leadership in nursing, autocratic can often cause friction. It’s a style where the leader takes complete control and expects their team to follow orders. They’re often micro-managers, and this style is often coupled with transactional leadership in nursing, a style that’s less nurturing and more punitive.
- Pros: Decisions often get made faster, a style that often is needed in emergencies
- Cons: Does not promote trust among employees, can often make employees feel undervalued, doesn’t invite creative input
5. Laissez-Faire Leadership
Laissez-faire leadership is pretty much the opposite of autocratic. It’s a very hands-off approach where the leader is “part of the team” and doesn’t provide much direction to others. It can be one of the least effective leadership in nursing management styles.
- Pros: For a well-trained team it can promote team spirit, it invites input from all team members in the decision-making process
- Cons: It can leave employees confused about what to do, it can cause a lack of accountability
Is Transformational Leadership Effective in Nursing?
Even with its few weaknesses, transformational leadership contains many good leadership skills in nursing. This style is the one that often drives improvements in patient care, personal development among other nurses, and overall organizational quality improvements.
If you read the Leadership and Management Tools for the New Nurse PDF or paperback, you’ll find many traits mentioned are included in the transformational leadership in nursing style.
How to demonstrate leadership in nursing includes qualities such as:
- The ability to motivate others
- Being an excellent communicator
- Developing self and others
- Becoming a successful change agent
Each of these qualities isn’t included in all leadership styles in nursing, but they ARE part of transformational leadership qualities in nursing.
The ability to champion and motivate others to change, to articulate a clear vision and exemplify the behavior that others can learn from are all factors that make this an effective style in nursing leadership and management.
Leadership theories in nursing also show that the transformational leadership style produces some of the highest morale in an organization. Employees under the leadership of someone with transformational leadership skills in nursing feel nurtured, mentored, heard, and are given the freedom to express new ideas.
As long as those with this style can separate the personal from organizational when it comes to disciplining and terminating employees, they’ll overcome one of the main weaknesses of transformational applied leadership in nursing.
What is leadership in nursing?
It’s a combination of being able to motivate and keep a team on task, as well as ensuring patients are well taken care of according to high-quality standards. The importance of leadership in nursing is also vital when it comes to the health and wellbeing of a healthcare facility as a whole.
Leadership in nursing definition has a significant impact on both patients and nurses. We’ll explore some studies on that next.
Why is Transformational Leadership Effective in Nursing?
Why is transformational leadership effective in nursing? In short, because it has a positive impact on:
Many examples of leadership in nursing show that transformational leaders create a positive atmosphere for continuous improvement, but do it in an inclusive and visionary way, motiving others to follow.
There is some interesting data from studies related to patient care and nursing leadership qualities and behaviors that illustrate just how much this style excels over many other leadership models in nursing.
We reviewed several nursing leadership and management PDF and web documents to illustrate the advantages of transformational leadership in nursing style.
Lower Nurse Turnover
One study that looked at non-transformational vs. transformational leadership in nursing examples found that nurses working under transformational leaders stayed with their organizations at higher levels.
High turnover rates can be disruptive to healthcare organizations. Being able to keep employees happy and reduce nurse turnover rates is an example that answers, “Why is leadership important in nursing?”
In one study, the following nurse turnover rates were seen:
- Transformational leadership: 13% nurse turnover
- Non-transformational leadership: 29% nurse turnover
Patient Safety & Satisfaction
When looking at the way that styles used in leadership in nursing practice impact patient safety and satisfaction, it was found that the transformational leadership style had a positive impact in both areas.
The study showed that the use of the transformational leadership theory nursing style was a predictor of positive impacts on:
- Patient safety culture
- Work Engagement
Other types of leadership in nursing, such as an autocratic or transactional style, don’t offer the same type of team motivation and “one for all” spirit. This can cause staff to have a harder time staying on task and delivering the same quality of care at the end of a long shift.
One intangible difference between transactional and transformational leadership in nursing is the happiness factor. When people are happier at work, they perform better, even under challenging circumstances. Transformational leadership tends to lead to happier employees.
Nurse Empowerment and Job Satisfaction
A study of nurse empowerment and transformational leadership in nursing practice found that transformational leaders positively impacted both nurse empowerment and job satisfaction.
Because this style includes effective communication in nursing leadership, intellectual stimulation, and personal development, it tends to make nurses under this type of leader feel more self-confident, empowered, and satisfied in their job.
The study notes that high job satisfaction leads to employees feeling they’re contributing to the greater good; they feel valued and have more positive perceptions of their workplace and organization. This leads to better and more passionate work.
The qualities of a good nurse leader include building the confidence of their team through mentoring and coaching. This helps build up empowerment, which can reduce mistakes when it comes to patient care.
The inviting of feedback and contribution to decisions that are included in both the transformational and democratic leadership style in nursing also help increase a feeling of empowerment. People feel they’re part of a team working towards the same goal, not just being told what to do.
Example(s) of Transformational Leadership in Nursing
When studying effective leadership in nursing, it helps to have examples we can point to as transformational leaders in action.
You can find many examples of transformational leaders outside nursing, such as:
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Walt Disney
- Mary Kay Ash
- Nelson Mandela
- Abraham Lincoln
However, finding a leadership styles in nursing PDF or webpage that lists transformational leaders in nursing is not quite as easy.
But there is one person in history that stands out as a definition of what makes a good nurse leader, and that can be considered a transformational leader, Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa –Transformational Leadership
Mother Teresa embodied many of the qualities of transformational leadership management and team working in nursing. She dedicated her life to helping the poor, and her passion for her work inspired those around her.
She led by example and was able to motivate others to her causes. She also championed change and improvement, founding Missionaries of Charity and opening a hospice for Aids victims in New York.
When looking at the 5 types of leadership styles in nursing, Mother Teresa would embody a combination of transformational and servant styles.
Why is Transformational Leadership Important in Healthcare?
While each of the different leadership styles in nursing management has their benefits, without the transformational leadership style, change, and evolution may not happen as often or as easy as in healthcare facilities.
The nature of healthcare requires constant change, but not all nursing leadership competencies are well suited to either champion or motivate others to change. Transformational principles of leadership in nursing encourage continuous improvement, which creates stronger healthcare facilities.
Nursing leadership development is also vital to ensuring organizations have a continual flow of qualified leaders to advance into positions of responsibility. Transformational leaders empower their teams, help them learn, and are one of the best suited to provide nursing leadership training for others.
Transformational Nursing Leadership and Management
The problem-solving techniques in nursing leadership using the transformational style are excellent because they are always looking for ways to do things better. This helps drive better patient care and create more optimized and cost-efficient organizations.
Nurse turnover can be a big problem for hospitals and other healthcare facilities. When you look over a management and leadership for nurse administrators PDF or other online documents, you’ll find that transformational leadership in nursing lowers turnover rates and improves job satisfaction.
Good leadership in nursing is vital to any healthcare organization. When you compare the outcomes of different types of leadership in nursing, transformational leaders have one of the biggest positive impacts on their organizations.
Popular books like Leadership and Management Tools for the New Nurse PDF or paperback are designed to build effective leadership skills in nursing to support healthcare organizations. The qualities noted are often those embodied by transformational leadership in nursing examples.
Are You a Transformational Leader?
If you’re wondering how to demonstrate leadership in nursing using a transformational style, you might stop to ask, “Am I, or could I be, a transformational leader?”
There is no reason that if you don’t currently have all the transformational traits of good leadership skills in nursing that you can’t adapt and learn. In fact, two of the developers of the transformational leadership theory, Burns and Bass, both thought that these were qualities that could be incorporated into other leadership styles.
If you want to learn effective leadership in nursing management, then it’s a good idea to learn the traits of the transformational leadership style because it has so many positive benefits to an organization and those that work under a leader using this style.
Wondering where you stand in the leadership in the nursing definition? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if you have the transformational leadership qualities in nursing.
- Do I take time to get to know each nurse on an individual level?
- Do I help my team learn rather than just expect them to know what to do?
- Do I empower my team to give their input and feedback?
- Am I always looking for ways to do things better?
- Does my team like me as a leader?
- Is my team loyal to me?
- Do I have the ability to capture a concept in an inspirational vision statement?
- Do I lead by example?
- Am I a good communicator?
- Do I get people to follow direction by motivating instead of punishing?
- Do I strive for excellence in myself and others?
- Do I enjoy thinking “outside the box” and encouraging my team to do the same?
Answering “yes” to a good number of those questions would indicate that of all the types of leadership styles in nursing, you most likely are a transformational leader.
For any that you answered “no” to, you can use the information above about leadership theories in nursing to help you adopt more of the traits of transformational nursing leadership and management.
Conclusion: The Best Guide for Transformational Nursing Leadership and Management
Good leadership qualities in nursing are vital to the efficiency of a healthcare organization, to the quality of patient care, and the satisfaction of the nursing staff. Nursing leadership qualities and behaviors can directly impact the safety and profitability of an organization.
We find when studying leadership theories in nursing that there are five main leadership models in nursing, and that one of the most impactful is transformational leadership.
Transformational leadership has been linked to the leadership qualities in nursing that improve patient care and satisfaction and that empower other nurses. Studies have also shown that transformational nursing leadership and management can significantly reduce employee turnover rates.
What is leadership in nursing is often answered by many of the characteristics shown in this leadership style. This includes effective communication in nursing leadership, the ability to coach and train leaders, and the fostering of an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Learning the leadership qualities in nursing associated with transformational leadership can help you become a more effective leader that inspires and motivates others. Adopting the transformational leadership theory nursing style will also help you have a long-lasting positive impact on the organization and patients you serve.
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Authors: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Lead) and Francesca Crolley (Content Manager)
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