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Leading the Way

July 1, 2007
QUESTION: I am the sole owner of my dental practice and I struggle as its leader.

QUESTION: I am the sole owner of my dental practice and I struggle as its leader. My employees look to me to lead them, but frankly, I’m unsure of my abilities. What makes a great leader?

ANSWER: The need for strong leadership skills is essential in a dental office. How well you lead is reflected in the morale and productivity of the staff. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader,” John Quincy Adams said.

There are other attributes of a great dental leader:

  • She shares her vision with the team. Everyone is working toward a common goal and no one is left behind.
  • She respects the diversity and individuality of each team member.
  • She has integrity and lives by her values.
  • Written job descriptions and systems are in place so that everyone knows what is expected as each performs his or her duties.
  • A leader has the ability to stretch her employees and gives them a chance to grow as individuals and also as employees. She believes in the potential of each.
  • To further enhance this growth, the dentist must not micromanage her employees. She does not hover, but keeps fully informed of the goings-on.
  • Leaders lead by example. If you are miserable, depressed, stressed, or angry, do not wear those feelings on your sleeve in front of the team. Your mood sets the tone for the whole practice and gives permission for others to copy. Leave the baggage at home and keep positive energy in the workplace.
  • She listens to her employees. They have smart ideas and often see things the dentist is unable to see or admit.
  • She supports her employees and stands up for them. A united team exists.
  • Appreciation abounds in the practice. A spontaneous “thank you” is always welcome as is a standard mutual courtesy in the office.
  • A great leader trains and coaches her employees to be the best that they can be in the workplace. This translates into their personal lives.
  • An effective leader exhibits self-care. She leads a balanced life.
  • A leader is decisive. She makes timely decisions and is able to change course if need be.
  • She accepts responsibility for her actions and does not blame others.
  • A leader is approachable. Her door is always open for her employees.
  • She cares about her employees.

When you incorporate these traits into your value system and practice them daily, you will lead a team who feels inspired and fulfilled in their professional and personal lives. Moreover, you and your practice will flourish.

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Stephanie Houseman, DMD

Dr. Houseman practiced dentistry in St. Louis for 25 years. She is married to a dentist, has two grown children, and understands all too well the demands we place on ourselves. She now works with dentists who want to simplify their lives so that they can enjoy themselves again. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute, creator of the 7 Steps 2 A Balanced Life Program, and author of “The Balance Beam,” a weekly e-newsletter about balance and life. Reach Dr. Houseman at or (618) 639-5433.