Take a moment to think about your peers in the dental industry. Who do you aspire to be like? Who do you consider a good leader? Across all industries, people who are consistently successful in their jobs, careers, and personal lives typically have a standard set of specialized skills that classify them as leaders amongst their peers.
This is to say that if you want to be more successful, start taking lessons from the leaders around you. There are many qualities that people use when leading others. Let’s discuss the three most essential qualities of how successful people lead and the steps to guide you on this quest in dentistry.
Effective Leaders Have Vision
In an earlier article, we discussed how individuals become a person of influence in their community—in this case, the dental industry. We discussed the necessity of having consistency, empathy, and courage traits. However, in addition, people of influence—leaders—need to know where they want to go and how to get there. This is known as vision. Vision is a picture of what success will look like once the identified objectives are reached.
When everyone on a team has the same destination in mind, it’s easy to work together towards that goal. However, if these individuals are unclear on their purpose, it will be challenging to bring their best efforts forward to support whatever they hope to accomplish. How can someone help if they don’t know what’s expected of them?
Influential leaders have a vision and can capture and communicate that vision to their followers. They illustrate each individual’s role and importance, motivate from within, build momentum, and clarify the intended outcome. By following through with each of these components, you can almost guarantee growth.
This applies to dentistry as effective office managers, dental owners, and dentists themselves commit to leading their team forward. They are responsible for crafting this vision for the future and finding the right people to support this objective.
Effective Leaders Provide Direction and Perspective
When it comes to leadership, micromanaging happens when the objective is unclear, the destination is unknown, or there are too many cooks in the kitchen to do all of the work. However, micromanaging and a lack of understanding can be frustrating and unproductive for all persons involved. Therefore, influential leaders must provide direction and perspective.
Direction goes hand-in-hand with vision as it is the step-by-step guide that leads to the team achieving that vision. In dentistry, this may come in additional education, seminars, or training for employees on patient care and communication. As a dentist or dental practice owner, it is also an excellent idea to build your relationship with each employee, understand their individual needs and aspirations, and align your vision with those as well. This will create a stronger drive, motivate your employees, and make them feel involved in the practice’s long-term strategy.
Perspective as a leader is essential in many ways. For one, it is necessary to maintain a high-level view and understand that not everyone can be an expert in every area, including you as the dentist or dental owner. Leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses, admit to areas in which they lack expertise, and must seek input from those who have specific knowledge about the task at hand while also providing direction so that people know how they want things done.
Encourage an open-minded and supportive atmosphere in which your employees can thrive. Show appreciation for new ideas and understand that each decision you make impacts your employee’s morale. People may not always agree with your choices, but they will respect your open-mindedness, ability to listen and foster participation, and decide upon the best course of action. In other words, by building solid relationships and respecting your employees, they will trust you and your leadership. Remember, the responsibility for team success rests squarely on you as the leader in your dental practice.
Effective Leaders Set Expectations and Hold Others Accountable
The final quality needed to be a successful leader is to be capable of setting expectations and holding your staff accountable. This includes providing each individual in your dental practice with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Boundaries must be maintained so that individuals focus only on the area in which they have experience or ownership.
Keep in mind that as individuals grow and develop, they may want to try something new, expand their area of expertise, or fill a role that better reflects their personality and passion. When someone wants to do more than what is expected of them, let them know what specific impact they could have if they extend themselves beyond their usual allotment of tasks. If they choose not to take it on or their execution is complex, take note and reduce their responsibilities to the level where they can be successful. If your expectations aren’t met and someone is genuinely trying, don’t hesitate to coach them through it.
As a leader, coaching is necessary to build up your team. Provide many opportunities to connect with each individual regularly, open the conversation with reflection and feedback, and support them. This will create a strong rapport and ensure you maintain a clear understanding of the situation.
Occasionally, individuals will fail. It’s part of being human. As a leader, maintain your composure, always be patient and understanding, listen, and ask questions. Each mistake is a compelling growth opportunity for you and your staff. Ask the employee for their thoughts on why the task wasn’t completed or isn’t up to par. Listen to their concerns and ask how you can support them in remedying the situation. This is an effective way to hold others accountable and open the floor to discussion and shared problem-solving. This leadership style is highly effective and will create lasting loyalties in your dental practice.
Call-Outs to Guide You as a Leader
Now that we have a solid understanding of the three most essential qualities of how successful people lead and steps to guide you on this quest in dentistry, you may be wondering what the next steps to guide you as a leader are. Here are key call-outs, which should help guide you as a dentist or dental owner on your path towards creating a successful practice.
Leaders must display character. Always conduct yourself in a professional and personable manner that sets an example for others to follow. Be aware of how your actions directly affect those around you, and aspire to be better each day.
Good leaders must make good decisions. Integrity is everything in any industry, so never compromise on your values. If you do, it will always end badly.
Leaders must display confidence. Confidence is communicated through the way people present themselves. For example, if you are unsure of a decision, it’s impossible to hide it—the unsureness will show. You can’t expect to lead effectively if others don’t trust your judgment or think you lack care for their wants and needs. Always speak to others with authority and vision while maintaining an open mind and listening to other points of view. Having confidence also means knowing when to change course based on new information.
Influential leaders take advantage of opportunities—especially those presented by challenging circumstances. When things aren’t going as planned, or there’s a bump in the road, it should serve as an opportunity for growth and development, not only for the people you lead but for yourself as well. Take the time to reflect on what’s happened and use it as a learning experience so that in the future, when similar circumstances occur, you’ll be able to respond even more effectively.
Provide your followers with direction. Individuals in your dental office rely on you to provide vision and direction. Managing situations is one of your primary responsibilities. Your best solution is to assess each case based on its potential impact and confidently act. Always answer questions truthfully, give instructions clearly, and make sure everyone understands what is expected of them.
Leaders get things done. Leaders pride themselves on the ability to get things done. Be practical yet creative when it comes to solving problems. Just because something hasn’t been done that way before doesn’t mean it can’t be, and if others have tried and failed, consider taking a different approach. The goal is to achieve results, and if your methods aren’t working, then be adaptable and strategically change them.
Learn from your mistakes. Human beings are flawed, and there will be times when we make mistakes. That’s okay; as long as you acknowledge errors and learn from them, those mistakes shouldn’t define who you are or how people perceive you as a dental professional. There’s no such thing as failure as long as lessons are learned along the way. In fact, our most remarkable success stories come from those who’ve learned the most from the mistakes they’ve made along the way.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you. To reach your full potential as a leader in dentistry, surround yourself with people who have what it takes to succeed. Be a resource and a mentor so that those you lead will leave you having learned something new. As one door closes, another has opened for them—find ways to ensure that everyone who works for or with you prospers from that experience. Allowing others to shine can be just as rewarding as doing it yourself sometimes, and seeing other people succeed builds loyalty amongst your team, which will pay off in the future.
If you want to be more successful and a leader in dentistry, start taking lessons from the leaders around you. People use many qualities when leading others, from having a vision to sharing direction, maintaining proper perspective, setting expectations, and holding yourself and others accountable. By following these principles and keeping the leadership call-outs top of mind, you’ll ensure you grow as intended and become a leader in dentistry for many years to come.