academy of general dentistry graduation
Courtesy of Academy of General Dentistry.

There is a certain kind of person I have come to admire. If you're lucky, you'll recognize the description because you have a person (or people) like this in your life.

I'm talking about the people I call “quiet influencers.” These are the people who don't usually draw a lot of attention to themselves, but who always seem to read a situation quickly and accurately. They are ready with wise counsel when it is needed and open to taking advice and welcoming new ideas. They serve as mentors and as role models — meaning they not only provide advice based on their experience, they also provide an example to emulate based on their character.

A quiet influencer is a good listener. They know that in order to influence someone in a positive way you have to first understand them. That means listening to learn and asking the right questions that get to the heart of a matter.

A quiet influencer is a natural motivator. Because they take the time to listen and really know you, they know how to get you to see your real possibilities and they blow wind in your sails when it's needed.

A quiet influencer keeps you honest. Because they are authentic and driven by a strong set of ethics, they inspire you to maintain the highest ethical standards, as well, and they will let you know if they sense that you may be about to compromise your integrity in any way. They won't let you be untrue to yourself.

A quiet influencer is selfless. They make a lot of their contributions behind the scenes and they are happy to let others take the spotlight. They don't need or pursue recognition or accolades, and they find their greatest satisfaction in the success of the people around them.

But sometimes they get that recognition anyway, and it is well-deserved.

I have been thinking about this lately, because one of the greatest examples of a quiet influencer I know, our own Dr. Steve Ratcliff, was recently awarded the Dr. Thaddeus V. Weclew Award — the Academy of General Dentistry's highest honor recognizing an individual's contributions to continuing education.

dr ratcliff
Dr. Ratcliff has practiced general dentistry for 41 years, and for the past 25 years he has focused his work on comprehensive adult restorative care and is regarded as one of the premier clinicians in the U.S.

It's named for the founding father of the AGD and is presented annually “to a dedicated educator who embodies the spirit of comprehensive dental care. This recipient is a professional role model whose activities exemplify a commitment to the profession of dentistry and the principles and goals of AGD.”

Needless to say, I think they nailed it with this choice. Steve has played a huge role over the years in shaping the Spear brand of continuing dental education, and he has done so in his typically measured, thoughtful way. He has also been a powerful “quiet influence” on me personally, as he has been for many others on our team, and for countless dentists who are involved with Spear. I think it's fair to say that anyone who has had Steve Ratcliff in their corner has richly benefited from the experience.

Congratulations, Dr. Ratcliff — those of us who know you as the ultimate quiet influencer are happy and proud to see you step into the spotlight to accept this honor.

Imtiaz Manji is co-founder and chairman of Spear Education.


Commenter's Profile Image Carl S.
August 27th, 2019
Congratulations Steve! Certainly well deserved. I know I am a better person today because you have been in my life to "quietly influence " me. Thank you Carl
Commenter's Profile Image Mitch E.
August 28th, 2019
Congratulations Steve. What an honor. Couldn’t think of a more well deserving individual.
Commenter's Profile Image Ponnie P.
September 17th, 2019
As I was receiving my fellowship award (finally) I was able to listen to Dr. Ratcliff's speech upon receiving his award. What an amazing honor! His wonderful speech and encouragement he made to those who are interested in teaching more was inspiring. As a rather new study club leader, I want to thank you for all you have done to help us with our study clubs. Ponnie Poisal