During these challenging times, it may be proactive to evaluate your leadership style and ask yourself whether it is working. Are you feeling confident about what you do? Have you been able to motivate and lead your team to keep your practice profitable and productive?
Dr. James Anderson.
Several common leadership styles are identified in most businesses today. In dental practices, you will most often see a democratic form of leadership that allows the team to bring suggestions regarding change. The majority or the power of management makes the final decision based on protocols and laws. The autocratic style is also typical in dental practices. The autocrat is a "ruler" and has set ways and regulations followed without questioning his or her authority.
I have found that the most successful style in developing people in my practices and my business is "servant leadership."
When you put the needs of your team first, you are on your way to becoming a servant leader. Leadership as a servant leader has shown that when you allow your team to become professionally and personally fulfilled, they will be more productive and more efficient. Employee satisfaction and collaboration are essential concepts in servant leadership.
Usually, management or leadership comes from the top down in business structure. Those in power at the top will exercise power in all decision-making. Becoming a servant leader means that you advocate some power, put other's needs first, and help your people perform and function to the highest level attainable.
Robert Greenleaf published the essay "The Servant as Leader" in 1970, effectively coining the term servant leader. The piece details how there is more to being a leader than decision-making skills -- the people you lead must trust you and believe your actions and words. The servant leadership theory emphasizes facilitating the growth of people around you and serving the needs of others.
The focus of my business brand promise is to bring "peace of mind" to my dental clients, their dental teams, and ultimately their patients. Our culture at eAssist is based on servant leadership principles and understanding what they mean, especially in times of crisis.
The following are traits of effective servant leaders:
- Listening: When you listen, you aren't thinking of what to say next. You are giving 100% of your attention to your team member or the patient. Active listening requires patience and time to hear what the other person is telling you.
- Empathy: When you can experience the feelings and thoughts of another, you are empathetic. We want to hear what fellow humans are experiencing to help them work through the upset. It is through shared empathy that we can begin to heal.
- Awareness: None of us live in a bubble, but sometimes we are overcome by our challenges. To be aware is to be open to those around us and how things are affecting our environment.
- Persuasion: To persuade a person requires that you know something about what the person wants in his or her life. It is demonstrating that the work you do is worthwhile in moving you toward business and personal goals. Autocratic leaders don't persuade; rather, they order people to comply, or they are disciplined.
- Stewardship: Caring for the team personally requires that you adopt an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources.
- Commitment to the growth of people: This involves understanding that your organization's people cannot advance development unless they are nurtured and supported.
- Building community: A good servant leader knows that it doesn't take the work of one person, but rather the work of a group or village bound by the same values and commitments.
Servant leaders value everyone's opinions and encourage them to share those opinions and actively contribute to the group regularly.
Here are six steps to embracing your role as a servant leader:
- Lead by example.
- Demonstrate to people why their job is essential.
- Encourage collaboration and employee engagement, and be transparent in your business dealings.
- Listen to and help your team grow and develop.
- Care for each other.
- Ask for feedback in a safe and open environment.
As we begin 2021, peace of mind is what we all want right now. We can begin in our practices with how we communicate with staff and patients. Become a servant leader and bring positive change to your business and personal life today.
Dr. James Anderson is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, UT, and is the CEO and founder of eAssist Dental Solutions. He can be reached via email.
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