Beyond transformational leadership in nursing: A qualitative study on rebel nurse leadership‐as‐practice

Eline de Kok*, Anne M. Weggelaar, Corijna Reede, Lisette Schoonhoven, Pieterbas Lalleman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
191 Downloads (Pure)


Most nurse leadership studies have concentrated on a classical, heroic, and hierarchical view of leadership. However, critical leadership studies have argued the need for more insight into leadership in daily nursing practices. Nurses must align their professional standards and opinions on quality of care with those of other professionals, management, and patients. They want to achieve better outcomes for their patients but also want to feel disciplined and controlled. To deal with this, nurses challenge the status quo by showing rebel nurse leadership. In this paper, we describe 47 nurses’ experiences with rebel nurse leadership from a leadership-as-practice perspective. In eight focus groups, nurses from two hospitals and one long-term care organization shared their experiences of rebel nurse leadership practices. They illustrated the differences between “bad” and “good” rebels. Knowledge, work experience, and patient-driven motivation were considered necessary for “good” rebel leadership. The participants also explained that continuous social influencing is important while exploring and challenging the boundaries set by colleagues and management. Credibility, trust, autonomy, freedom, and preserving relationships determined whether rebel nurses acted visibly or invisibly. Ultimately, this study refines the concept of rebel nurse leadership, gives a better understanding of how this occurs in nursing practice, and give insights into the challenges faced when studying nursing leadership practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12525
Number of pages11
JournalNursing Inquiry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • focus groups
  • leadership
  • nursing practice
  • positive deviance
  • rebels


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