Dental leadership is the set of practices, attitudes and abilities that allow a person to define the direction of a practice or team, and then motivate and influence others to move in that direction toward shared goals.
As emerging dental professionals, you might wonder if this kind of dental leadership is really needed to start and grow a practice. After all, aren’t there many more little details that need to be decided first? Doesn’t the practice need to grow to a certain size before worrying about leadership?
That might have been the case 20 years ago, but today, it’s an attitude that will hinder your practice. Consider all the forces that are shaping oral health professions today:
- New practice/business models
- Changing consumer demands for oral care and cosmetic dentistry products
- Changing consumer demographics and buying patterns
- New financing options for dental care
- Direct marketing of dental products and services to consumers
- Changes in education about oral health
- Advances in oral care and orthodontic technologies
- Privacy laws, patient records and compliance
A dental practice today might seem similar to one that our parents’ generation visited, but the underlying industry dynamics and business models are more complicated.
How are these forces to be navigated? How are decisions made? Who will define what the practice of the future looks like? How do you get your staff and your patients on board with change?
The first step is to ask yourself, “What can I do better today to be a better leader tomorrow?” The next step is to create a self-help plan for improving your leadership skills. It doesn’t need to be complicated; it simply needs to be a guide that will help you hold yourself accountable for your dental leadership development.
For example, you should plan for:
- Continued learning. There’s always more to learn, both about the practice of dentistry and about being a leader in a dental practice. Make time to read books and articles or even take some classes. Join a professional peer group. Reach out to a mentor. Continue to challenge yourself.
- Putting together a vision. It’s easier to lead others when you have a sense of direction. Picture what you want your practice to look like in one year, five years and 10 years. Ask yourself, “What steps do I need to take right now to start moving toward those visions?”
- Working on your mindset. Do you have a passion for what you do? Do others feel that passion and get excited? Do you look forward to working together to achieve your vision? Mull over these questions, then do what you need to do to get into the right mindset for leading.
- Mastering the art and science of decision-making. Effective leaders must perform a balancing act between making firm and fast decisions, and avoiding being stubborn or authoritarian. Decision-making in this way requires skills such as active listening, information gathering, prioritizing and, ultimately, positively influencing others.
- Being open to change. The practice of dentistry and the economy at large are quickly changing. Dental practices that cling to the status quo are going to struggle. Be open to change and help your staff weather that change when it happens.
Want more ideas about dental leadership? Check out our webinar with ASDA’s Career Compass to hear what Heartland Dental-supported doctors had to say.
This blog post was sponsored by Heartland Dental.