The actions of a leader

May 1, 2006
Afew days ago, I was reading an article about leadership. I didn’t necessarily agree with the premise and I didn’t find it very helpful because the main point seemed to be that there was nothing you could do to be a leader.

A few days ago, I was reading an article about leadership. I didn’t necessarily agree with the premise and I didn’t find it very helpful because the main point seemed to be that there was nothing you could do to be a leader. According to this article, leadership is a state of being; it is not about what we do. I am just an old farm boy from Indiana, but that sounds like a serious load of horse hockey to me. Maybe that is true of the great leaders of the world, but I doubt it.

I believe it was General Patton who said he learned everything he needed to know about leadership from a piece of string. Trying to push it across a table top was much less successful than pulling it. To General Patton, leadership was simple. As a new dentist, leadership can be simple if you take a few basic actions.

The first action you must take as the leader of your dental practice is to write a vision statement. If you have purchased a dental practice and have not created a new vision for the practice, the selling doctor is still the leader of the practice. There has been so much written about vision/mission statements that a few minutes on the Internet will give you all the help you need. If you are not a great writer, it is OK to use the “CAPE” (copy and paste everything) method.

The second leadership action you must do is strategic planning. Most Japanese corporations have strategic business plans for the next 150 years. A long-term strategic plan for a dental office is not as crazy as it sounds. My practice is over 55 years old and has operated from five locations with two different doctors. I treat many third-generation patients who have never been treated by any other dentist.

You are really in this for the long haul. Certainly, we do not need a 150-year business plan, but it is amazing how many dentists do not even have a one-year strategic plan. To keep leadership simple, first think of one year only. The most basic strategic planning that you must do on an annual basis is to project these statistics.

1. What is the annual office production goal?

2. How many days will the practice be open?

3. When will you take vacations and how many days off will you take?

4. How many days will you take off to complete continuing education?

5. What is your daily production goal?

6. Which new technologies and procedures will you integrate into the practice this year?

7. What additions or changes do you want to make to your staff?

Strategic planning is an act of leadership. Start with one year before you tackle the next 150 years!

The final area of leadership is to walk your talk. There are many actions that fall in the category of walking your talk. Here are a few examples.

1.Your dental health and your smile must represent the quality your patients expect.

2.You are a doctor. Do you dress and act the part?

3.You are the boss. Do you always take action when the action of the boss is required? Do you celebrate success, confront inappropriate behaviors, provide performance reviews, and fire employees whenever it is appropriate?

4.Are you on time every day, are you fully engaged, and does your attitude reflect what you expect from your staff?

From the first day you walk into your new practice, you will be judged as a leader. Your leadership qualities will be evaluated by your patients and your staff. They will evaluate your leadership qualities based on your confidence, competence, and character. You should be confident of your technical skills as a dentist. You have been tested by your university and by a board of examiners. Your confidence as a leader should come from a strong vision that drives you to success. Leadership competence is about having a plan. Without a plan, you are in chaos. Character is all about walking your talk. Your patients, your staff, and your peers are all evaluating your character. Leadership can be simple if you break it down to the three qualities and three actions.

Dr. Michael Gradeless, a 1980 graduate of Indiana University, practices preventive dentistry in Indianapolis with an emphasis on cosmetics and implants. He is an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University, where he teaches the Pride Institute university curriculum of dental management. He also is the editor for the Indiana Dental Association. Contact him at (317) 841-3130 or e-mail to [email protected].

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