Applying Transformational Leadership to the Collaborative Field of Radiation Therapy

Oct 8, 2022 | Articles

By Cheryl Young, EdD, RT(T)

Cheryl YoungThis Sponsor Contribution is excerpted from the Master’s Thesis of the author and is reprinted with permission.

Radiation Therapy, as defined by educators Perez and Brady (2008),1 is a clinical modality utilizing ionizing radiation to treat cancer and other benign diseases. It is a field that couples evolving technologies with highly precise procedures centered on compassionate care for patients. Radiation Therapists are healthcare professionals who administer prescribed doses of radiation to patients to treat cancer.4 (Ekmekci & Turley, 2008) 

In a field that is fast evolving, Radiation Therapists work collaboratively within multidisciplinary teams of individuals, including dosimetrists, medical physicists, and radiation oncologists. 

The primary outcome of the delivery of Radiation Therapy is to supply a precisely measured irradiation dose to a defined tumor volume with as minimal damage to the surrounding healthy tissues as possible.1 (Perez & Brady, 2008) Because collaboration amid change ensues better outcomes, these professionals must lead in directions advocating team collaboration. 

Therapists and Transformational Leadership 

Although many leadership theories exist, one of the most current and popular approaches that may be applied to Radiation Therapy education is Transformational Leadership Theory. Transformational Leadership is utilized within healthcare to appeal to the moral values of those being trained while providing a supportive environment in which responsibilities are shared among all.2 (Vaismoradi, Griffiths, Turunen & Jordan, 2016) 

Changes within Radiation Therapy, resulting in the advancement of clinical outcomes, often enhance the quality of treatment deliveries. Because of changes within the field, which include the evolution of treatment techniques, equipment, software upgrades, and medical advancements, it is imperative to train future leaders with those practices of the Transformational Leadership Theory. Transformational leaders possess skills that: 

  • Motivate Individuals to Accomplish Great Tasks;
  • Encourage Growth and Development;
  • Encourage Adaptive Change.

When administrators lead with this theory, they encourage growth and provide an atmosphere fostering motivation and development. The leadership model manifests in certain behaviors, including: 

  • Leaders closely engage with followers, motivating them to perform beyond their transactional agreements.3 (Rubin, Munz, & Bommer, 2005)
  • Educators may utilize evaluation and feedback processes to emphasize areas where a student may be struggling. They may introduce goals to follow and accomplish.
  • Clinical supervisors positively impact students’ clinical experiences through evaluation and feedback, aiding student learning and success.

Challenges in Radiation Therapists’ Leadership 

Due to the field’s growing demands, Radiation Therapists must improve and maintain their skills to remain proficient. Radiation Therapists must conform to ever-changing challenges, including: 

  • New Technology;
  • Clinical Time Constraints;
  • Patient Needs.

In addition to these tasks, clinical supervisors must ensure they are providing students with opportunities to develop the skills to complete educational programs successfully. 

Positioning the Rising Generation of Radiation Therapists for Leadership 

For students studying Radiation Therapy and either entering or further developing their expertise in this collaborative field, the clinical supervisor and student relationships help cultivate an environment to ensure growth and development can flourish. Therefore, the behaviors of the clinical supervisor may directly impact student outcomes and individual success. Because the clinical supervisor supervises students, a close relationship is established. Ultimately, this helps cultivate a leader-follower relationship.

  1. Clinical supervisors may act as transformational leaders, inspiring their followers to open their minds and develop creative lines of thinking. The clinical supervisor must engage students in critical thinking activities within student relationships.
  2. Radiation Therapists are constantly adapting to new challenges, and using critical thinking skills is necessary to ensure students adapt to challenges presented within the department. The clinical supervisor must hold each student to a high level of expectation to achieve the required goals.
  3. Radiation Therapists practice in healthcare landscapes that are constantly reshaped by constant change, requiring continuous adaptation.4 (Ekmekci & Turley, 2008) Radiation Therapists are constantly pushing the boundaries of their profession.4 (Ekmekci & Turley, 2008) In so doing, they model adaptive behavior and reflect the priorities of their organizations.


By encouraging transformational leadership in the workplace, leaders can change individual value systems to construct new ones constituted by common goals. Leaders may actively engage with followers by supporting collaborations and encouraging them to identify with an organizational vision and a more significant identity beyond their self-interests.5(Ruggieri & Abbate, 2013) 

Cheryl Young, EdD, RT(T), is the Radiation Therapy Program Director at National University. Cindy Chamberlin and Liz DeForest contributed to the editing of this version.

Learn more about Gurnick’s B.S. in Radiation Therapy program here.


1 ^a ,bHalperin, MD, Edward, et al. Perez & Brady’s Principles and Practice of Radiation Oncology. 2008. 7th ed., USA, Wolters Kluwer, Oct. 1, 2018. 

2 Vaismoradi, Mojtaba, et al. “Transformational Leadership in Nursing and Medication Safety Education: A Discussion Paper.” Journal of Nursing Management, vol. 24, no. 7. May 4, 2016, pp. 970–980, 10.1111/jonm.12387. 

3 Rubin, Robert S., David C. Munz, and William H. Bommer. “Leading From Within: The effects of Emotion Recognition and Personality on Transformational Leadership Behavior.” Academy of Management Journal 48.5 (2005): 845-858. 

4 ^a, b, c Sayan, Mutlay, et al. “Utilization of Radiation Therapy and Predictors of Noncompliance among Syrian Refugees in Turkey.” Access to Radiation Therapy by Syrian Refugees Displaced to Turkey, RG. May 12, 2022. (Accessed Sept. 7, 2022). 

5 Ruggieri, S., & Abbate, C. S. (2013). Leadership Style, Self-sacrifice, and Team Identification. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 41(7), 1171–1178. (Accessed Sept. 7, 2022).