By Bobby Haney / DDS

This article talks about a subject near and dear to my heart. In fact, it seems like almost a calling for me to spread the word on this subject. Yet, it’s something many people are sick and tired of hearing about. What is it? Leadership. There, I said it. But I hope you’ll read on because this might shed new light on the subject for you.

As a practicing dentist, you’re automatically bestowed with leadership responsibilities. At the very least, you’re looked to as a leader by your patients. They ask that you “lead” them to a healthier dental condition to the best of your ability. Many of you have leadership roles to play in your office—with your team, vendors, lenders, and more. In addition, there is a built-in expectation from your community to lead in some capacity as a professional. I’m not even counting your family, friends, civic or church groups … the list goes on.

So, we’ve established that you are a leader, like it or not. “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” according to author and clergyman John C. Maxwell. Even if I didn’t think this was true once upon a time, after 32 years in the dental office, I’m convinced that it most certainly is!

All groups of people follow leaders—families, political parties, nations, clubs, and especially, for our intents and purposes, your office team. The leader sets the tone for the practice and the followers tend to mimic the attitude and actions of the leader.

There are certainly dissenters in each group, and that’s a good thing in a democracy. We need to hear everyone’s thoughts and opinions because they can help us do better. But ultimately, the goal of any group is unity of purpose. This applies to dental offices just like anywhere else.

What does being a good leader produce for your office? You need a unified team focused on delivering great service to patients. You want to have delighted patients who are eager to accept treatment, pay your fee, and refer their friends and family to your office. It would be terrific if your office was a happy place for you and your team to come to work every day. To be happy, everyone in the office must understand with crystal clearness what is expected of them, and they must each be well trained to fulfill their responsibilities. What else can you imagine?

Well, all of this is possible. But leaders have to lead well to accomplish these goals! There can be no excuses. No, “I don’t have time,” or “I’m not a good leader; I don’t know how,” or my favorite, “It’s an office full of women (shrug).”  Yes, I have actually heard this more than once.   

Ignoring the problem doesn’t solve it. If you’re not experiencing the good things I mentioned earlier, then you need to reevaluate your leadership. Remember, everything rises and falls on your leadership, and if it’s not rising, guess who’s the problem?

So, leaders, we need to stop being lazy (making excuses), stop sticking our heads in the sand (that’s neglect), and attack the problem, which is poor leadership! It is possible. You can improve your leadership skills. Let me tell you a secret revealed by Dr. Don Barden in his book, “The Perfect Plan.” He says the most important factor in providing the best leadership is to be the greatest servant. I know that sounds paradoxical, but hear me out.

After several years of studying some of the top 1% producing businesses in the world, Dr. Barden discovered that, without exception, all of their CEOs (leaders) had a servant heart. All of them approached each relationship, business or otherwise, with the attitude of “What can I do for you?”

Again, I know it sounds crazy, but I found this to be true in my own life and practice. By developing (and it takes some practice) an attitude of putting others ahead of myself, building that into my mind and heart, I saw the results in my team and office, not to mention other places. I grew tremendously as a leader.

You can do the same thing. It’s not as hard as it sounds. It will take some work, but the benefits to your practice, family, and life will be immense. So, the best leader is … the greatest servant to others. Winston Churchill may have said it best, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Now, fellow leaders, let’s go and give!