Leadership – and how to get it right
The most successful leaders are those who acknowledge that they are lacking in some areas and work hard at developing themselves
quick Google search of “Leadership” will come up with more than 50 million results. Yet in spite of all the learned articles, books and research, it is still done badly. From governments to corner shops, problems are caused, opportunities missed and ultimately inefficient results come from poor leadership.
Dentistry is no exception. My experience as a coach has shown me leadership styles that vary from the autocratic, “My way or the highway!” right through to the submissive, “the meek will inherit the earth – if the others don’t mind”.
I think that one of the main problems is that leadership is perceived as a thing that can be learned from a book, that a style can be copied slavishly and that by doing what appears to work for someone else will succeed for you. Difficulties arise when there is no variation in style, resulting in little
or no flexibility.
In fact, there are many styles of leadership and it is important to use the most appropriate in any given situation. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Daniel Goleman quotes the work of Hay/McBer who liken the leadership skills required for success to the different clubs in a golf pro’s bag. As the pro goes around a course they choose the most appropriate club for the shot. Sometimes they need to ponder the shot, but usually the choice is automatic and that’s how good leaders work.
The six styles and their brief statements are:
Coercive leaders who demand immediate compliance. “Do what I say.”
Authoritative leaders who mobilise people toward a vision. “Come with me.”
Affiliative leaders who create emotional bonds and harmony. “People come first.”
Democratic leaders who build consensus through participation. “What do you think?”
Pacesetting leaders who expect excellence and self-direction. “Do as I do, now.”
Coaching leaders who develop people for the future. “Try this.”
The most successful leaders are those who acknowledge that they are lacking in some areas and work hard at developing themselves. They have analysed their style or styles, observed what works for others, considered their approach and evolved how they lead into something that is appropriate for the situation, the individuals and the challenges that they or the business generally are facing.
In order to succeed, Goleman tells us, we need to have highly developed “Emotional Intelligence”. This he defines as the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively. He describes the four fundamental capabilities as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill. Each capability, in turn, is composed of specific sets of competencies.
In any organisation, large or small it is important that those “at the top” develop leadership qualities in everyone within the group.
“My experience has shown me that many problems in dentistry communication, discipline, and effectiveness arise from the standard bearers of the leadership letting themselves slide
into bad habits”
This does not result, as some resistant dental practice owners have told me, in too many chiefs and not enough Indians, rather it grows within individuals a sense of self and responsibility. It is a role of leaders to identify the traits in others that can be developed and also those that are absent or dormant and should be awakened. Every individual needs to have the knowledge of themselves to understand their role or roles and appreciate the roles of other team members.
Leaders in any organisation set the tone, establish and maintain the culture and are visible signs of the business’s core values. This is easy to forget – especially when new to a job and the temptation to take the path of least resistance and let standards slip can be attractive.
My experience has shown me that many problems in dentistry communication, discipline, and effectiveness arise from the standard bearers of the leadership letting themselves slide into bad habits. Successful people have successful habits, Dan Sullivan tells us, and there is a need for everyone to say, “It’s showtime!” to themselves every morning.
Roger Levin recently wrote of the four bad habits that undermine leaders in dentistry and I can only agree.
1) Procrastination – the urge to put off relatively small things can be tempting, especially in a busy practice. Yet the small things grow into big ones, and will weigh you down if there is not a timetable and a deadline for dealing with them.
2) Impulsiveness – team members hate the announcements that start, “we’re going to make a few changes”. People need to understand the reasons for change, the benefits for them and want to feel consulted. Railroading through a change in policy, procedure or protocols will only provoke resistance and promote unease.
3) Complacency – everything changes. Acknowledge it, be aware of your own comfort zone and know how you resist new ideas. The late adopters and laggards in any walk of life are usually left wondering what happened as their businesses struggle and are left behind.
4) Not sticking to your word – your team members rely on you
to do what you have said that you will. Failureto complete or to follow through means you have broken your bond and let them down. If you cannot be trusted how can you expect to get the best from them? Consistency is everything.
Alun K Rees BDS is The Dental Business Coach. An experienced dental practice owner who changed career he now works as a coach, consultant, trouble-shooter, analyst, speaker, writer & broadcaster. He brings the wisdom gained from his and others’ successes to help his clients achieve the rewards their work and dedication deserve.