How to become a great leader

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Every dentist would state that they would like to be a great leader. The three recommendations in this article will help any dentist become a great leader, which will in turn help to build a powerful, focused practice team and retain team members longer.

3 leadership recommendations

1. Define your vision, mission, and values

The first recommendation to becoming a great leader is to define the "DNA" and purpose of the practice. To accomplish this, the leader needs to do three things:

  • Establish a vision for the future of the practice.
  • Define the mission or purpose of the practice.
  • Identify the core values that the practice will live by.

In short, the vision answers the question of where you want the practice to be in five years. The mission explains the purpose or why the practice exists, and the core values are the blocks of "DNA" that you believe in so intensely that they are nonnegotiable and are never ever to be violated.

Dr. Roger P. Levin.Dr. Roger P. Levin.

These three components allow the team to become committed to the practice. People today want a sense of direction and purpose in their work. The vision answers this question.

In addition, they want to feel that they have more than a job. They want to feel that they have a purpose, that they are contributing and making a difference, and the mission answers this question.

And, finally, every business has a set of values whether they have identified them or not. A great leader identifies the values that everyone will live by every day and that are so important that they will never change and should never be violated.

2. Motivate and mentor your team

The second key to being a great leader is to provide growth opportunities to the team every day. This includes motivation, mentoring, and managing to allow team members to grow and excel, leading to higher levels of performance, production, and profitability.

Dentists must continually find ways to motivate the team collectively and as individuals, which will create an environment where they will come to work every day to do their best and continue to improve.

Mentoring is an essential element of leadership. A dentist may not be able to fully mentor every team member equally, but this does not mean that all team members don't receive the benefit of some level of mentoring from their leader.

A simple technique of meeting with every team member once every two or three months just to have a 15-minute chat goes a long way. Keep in mind that this chat is not a performance review. It is an opportunity to simply sit down and see where things stand with each team member to find out what they need to be successful.

3. Communicate with transparency and honesty

Communication, transparency, and honesty have become so important in business today. When team members feel that secretive things are going on behind their backs or they are simply not being told important information, it leads to the single most debilitating factor in ruining great teams: gossip. People fill in what they don't know with gossip and usually the worst-case scenario.

Communication is critical. Although everything cannot be shared every moment with the team, the more they are included in the happenings of the practice, the more they can be a team that will help to achieve the vision, live the mission, and uphold the core values. It will also eliminate any need for gossip.

Transparency is a powerful tool of great leaders. They don't manipulate, and they don't hold back. They share new information early in the process and even include and allow the team to provide feedback.

Great leaders know that sometimes feedback may keep them from making a mistake, or it can reveal a better idea. For example, we often suggest that dentists take time to meet with the front desk team and simply ask about the biggest challenges and frustrations they have.

The goal is not to have a gripe session but to give the team an opportunity to think about what is challenging or frustrating. Their answer will point out areas of inefficiency that can be improved to improve practice performance.

Transparency is leading the team to know that you are open to hearing anything, receiving any feedback from them, and giving them feedback openly and honestly from the perspective of caring.

Honesty sounds like it should be obvious to any dentist regarding communicating with the team, but it is often not the case. If the team even perceives that they are not being given honest information, they will lose trust in both the dentist and the practice. Great leaders know that trust is one of the most important components of great leadership.


Becoming a great leader is not easy. There is no automatic path to follow or certification test to take. It is the day-in and day-out process of becoming a great leader. Leadership is not something you achieve and are then done. It is situational, as internal and external factors shift, but the three areas outlined above will always provide a strong foundation for becoming and remaining a great leader.

Dr. Roger P. Levin is CEO of Levin Group, a leading practice management and marketing consulting firm. To contact him or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit or email

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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