Many times I hear dentists say that they love the clinical side of dentistry, but they could do without the leadership issues that await them when they step back from the patients’ mouths. But to be a complete dentist you must also be a leader. In fact, you have to be three kinds of leader:
You have to be a leader for your team. This is the most obvious form of leadership you need to provide. You can delegate much of the daily task-oriented management issues, but you can’t delegate vision. Your team needs to understand the goals of the practice, and your philosophy of how you want to present your value. Your team has to embrace the future of your practice with the same commitment you do. And that’s hard, because team members have their own lives to worry about. You have to be more than a boss who directs them; you must be a leader who inspires them with a purpose and vision, and you must provide them with the right resources so they can be their best for patients and for you.
You have to be a leader for your patients. That means clinical leadership and value leadership. It’s not enough to be an outstanding clinician. You also have to help patients understand the value of dentistry, the value of being part of your practice, the value of you, the value of the treatment plan and the value of their dental possibilities. You have the ability to give patients a mouth better than nature can. For patients to choose that, however, they have to really see that value, they have to believe that it is in their best interests, and they have to know that you are the best doctor to help them with that goal. That takes motivational leadership.
You have to be a leader for your own life. The success you have inside the practice drives the quality of your life outside the practice. It’s yin and yang. Energy and value from your practice flows into your life, and energy and value from your life flows into your practice. What does that life need to be so that you love it, and what does your practice need to be to have that life and to love practicing dentistry? These are questions that every dentist who takes ownership for their success asks. We often use the expression leading a life, but the fact is too many people are content to be followers, rather than the authors, of their own story. You may not feel that you are a “natural leader” (whatever that may be), but you certainly have it within you to set the agenda in these three areas and take the lead in determining your destiny.