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Director's Message: Leadership as a choice. RDH eVillage Director Kristine Hodsdon describes qualities for good leadership.

Great leadership doesn't require a diploma or a degree. It's not reserved for some elite group of people.

Leadership can be something for everyone to embrace, from dental assistant to hygienist to office manager to dentist/practice owner. Sometimes all it requires is a shift in mindset: interpreting frustrations at work as opportunities instead of barriers.

Maybe it's time for all of us to step up and take action, becoming a leader. Help make the company (and yourself) succeed, with the support of other great leaders.

What does good leadership look like?

Leadership is about so much more than strategy, operations, and marketing. It's about discovering and understanding each team member's potential (as well as your own) and finding ways to tap into that resource, something many dentists neglect to do.

The best leaders, including presidents, generals, and sports coaches, are often the ones who look outside their own endeavors to discover how universally successful leaders think. For example, take John Quincy Adams who said:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

Or, Lao Tzu, who suggested:

A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

Few employees would argue about the merits of such leadership styles — with the emphasis on encouraging and channeling subordinates' intelligence and passion into the job. But for employers, those styles could also yield positive results. The 2007-2008 Towers-Perrin Global Workforce Study found that if managers recognized employees' untapped energy and ambition and then channeled it, they would increase employee engagement (defined as an employee's willingness to go the extra mile).

That engagement is golden. The study found that companies with the highest percentage of engaged workers also had the highest increased operating income and earnings per share. So by inspiring your staff, you're potentially boosting the bottom line.

How to inspire leadership

If you're an employee, how do you step into a leadership role? If you're a leader, how do you encourage staff to step up?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Trust. Leaders need to create it and employees need to, well, trust. If your words and actions are just lip service, employees will know and steer clear. Avoiding flavor-of-the-month buzzwords can go a long way to proving you are genuine.
  • Understanding. Employee empowerment is not an event; it's a philosophy with specific strategies that allow staff to make decisions that directly affect their job. Employers need to be in it for the long term, and employees need to consider how their decisions may affect the office.
  • Clear boundaries. When the leader is away, what decisions can staff make? Remember, assigning responsibility without authority can be a leadership killer. Make sure everyone knows who is leading whom. If you're an employee, make sure you get clear direction before assuming responsibility.
  • Encouragement. Second-guessing the decisions of staff that have been given the authority to make those decisions undermines the entire process. Will mistakes be made? Of course. But after shooting down an employee, wait and see if anyone ever steps up with a critical idea or decision that takes the company's success to the next level.

Empowering employees is a powerful way to motivate staff. It allows them to get passionate about challenges and inspires them to step up with new ideas. It's a win-win situation. Left uninterrupted, this cycle repeats, encouraging passionate and skilled people to step up and make decisions about how to best serve patients or clients, which ultimately benefits the bottom line.

Kristine A. Hodsdon Director, RDH eVillage

PS: Learn More about leadership at a no-cost webinar titled, "Leader’s Influence: From Mindset To Confidence," on Wednesday, April 4; click here for details.

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