Many myths associated with leadership permeate our thinking and prevent many practice owners from getting the results they want. As a direct consequence of this unrealistic logic, dentists fail to motivate and inspire their teams despite putting much effort into this endeavour.
Many tend to have erroneous perceptions of what a leader should act like or talk like, and consequently, many try to emulate something that they are not. This is because, in order to get to the status of “Leader”, they have been using strategies that require learning and are self-reliant. However, as Marshall Goldsmith said, “What got you here won’t get you there”. In other words, to excel at leadership, a completely different outlook and strategies are required. Getting to a leadership position is about you; being a leader is about them.
Here are some myths that impede us:
Management & leadership is the same
Many use the words “Leader” and “Manager” interchangeably in everyday conversations. However, these two roles are slightly different. Understanding the difference will help to clarify the execution of your business plan.
Managers work primarily on enforcing rules and following operational systems. On the other hand, leaders are more about the growth strategies and directing the overall business towards the vision. They do this by motivating and inspiring the team for higher performance. Often, Leaders need to think outside the box and take risks on unconventional, creative ideas.
However, especially with dentists, past training and conditioning keep us with a “Manager Mindset”; hence as dentists, we invariably become micro-managers or unprofitable motivators instead of productive, inspirational leaders. Leadership is about helping your people reach their optimal potential so that they can together realise the ultimate vision.
“Anyone Can Steer the Ship, but It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course.” John C. Maxwell
Leaders are born
Fortunately, I have come to understand that leadership is a skill that can be learnt! There are many styles of leadership, and pretty much every single one will be needed at some point. If we know what leadership entails, then we can strive towards achieving that. Leadership is no different to any other format of Business Management.
Leaders are extroverts.
It is common to believe that people who can demand attention or stand out in a crowd because they are great orators, stronger or more lively, tend to make great leaders. However, this is not entirely true. Two key skills required to lead are listening to your team and quiet, contemplative reflection, both of which allow you to understand your team better and make superior decisions.
Leadership can’t be taught.
This is not true since leadership can be systemised, and by following precisely laid out protocols, you can give the impression of outstanding leadership before it becomes habitual. Indeed, I have an online program on my website that has systemised leadership to bring about genuine results. I have personally seen its success.
You can easily become a Leader by attending a course.
You can attend a course and understand leadership, but you will only understand the theory behind leadership. The real results come with continuous and consistent actions. Most people take a course and then conduct the actions for only a short length of time. For example, they have one follow up meeting in the practice when in reality, many more are required to activate any Change. The reality is the practice of Leaderships skills is needed.
Leadership requires IQ
Most dentists will have a good IQ (Intelligence Quotient) which is the logic and order part of our brains. However, leadership requires a significant level of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) also to understand people truly; get a flavour of the team mood, or recognise a good team culture. However, EQ is mainly about the intangibles, like how the team feels. This is quite important because if you don’t get team engagement or a “buy into” idea, then you will not be able to follow it through.
Leaders need to know everything.
This thinking stems from the Industrial Age when line workers rose to managerial positions by knowing all the jobs on the factory floor. But in a modern-day fast-paced business and especially in our industry, this is not required or possible. In fact, it would introduce inefficiencies if you tried to be “jack of all trades but master of none”; instead, it’s better to have people on your team that are excellent at any particular job.
One Leadership Style fits all.
Leadership styles need to be adapted to the situation at hand. Sometimes you require charm and understanding, whilst at other times you require firmness and resilience. How you lead ten people is different from how you lead 150 people, simply due to practicality. Leading different levels of the team requires a different strategy. As your responsibilities grow, good leaders nurture excellent communication and improve their skills through practice.
There is only one leader in any practice.
This is a common misconception amongst employees. The reality is that every person is a leader. The practice principal is leading a group of leaders. This is a mindset. If you think this then your employees will produce more as more is expected of them. However, if you do not have any expectations and treat your employees as such”, then the team will only do as much as they are told out of fear of upsetting the boss by stepping outside of their jurisdiction. Great leadership encourages autonomy and intuitive independence.
Leaders don’t make mistakes or tolerate them from others.
Every person makes mistakes, and nobody is perfect. Leaders recognise that those errors can also help us to learn and grow. However, what Leaders do differently is their actions are calculated, so the mistakes are simply unforeseen missteps. Also, Leaders recognise the difference between sloppy work and again unforeseen missteps in others too. But more importantly, the leader will see how the employee has reacted to that situation and will observe their critical thinking abilities and what they do about the error. Therefore, despite any mishaps, the team can subsequently learn and move on.
It is easy to fall into any of these misconceptions. However, if you want to break barriers and achieve transformations with your practice, leadership done the right way is the key!