By default, most dentists are the leaders of their respective dental practices: if your name is on the door, well, the buck stops with you.

Having said that, many of these same dentists are uncertain about exactly what that role entails. What can they do to provide the best leadership for their staff? Many of the best qualities of a leader are common sense: following the Golden Rule, for example. But even the subtler things matter … which is why we’ve compiled this easy-to-read list of five leadership tips for your dental practice.

  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Being a leader does not mean doing the work yourself. If you feel the need to go in behind your people and finish tasks they should be doing, you either don’t have the right people, or you don’t have faith in them to do their jobs. Your job is to be the DENTIST–in dental practices, 3/4 or more of total income should be generated by the dentist. The more you let your people do their jobs, the more time you have with patients … and that helps drive your success.
  1. Make the hard choices. This is a follow-up to the first suggestion. What if you discover you DON’T have the best person for a position? Do you let that person go? Find him or her another place in your practice? Just let it go and hope it works itself out? Effective leaders learn to make firm decisions, quickly and confidently. This decisive manner sends a strong, positive message to team members and makes them feel that things are under control. While we’re on the subject, feel free to encourage your managers to make decisions themselves in their areas of responsibility. 
  1. Be ready and willing to adapt. The ability to make decisions sometimes means stepping out of your comfort zone. Our culture is ever evolving, and technological breakthroughs change the way we operate, sometimes seemingly on a daily basis: flexibility and adaptability are keys to survival. As business conditions change–in the dental field, in your local market, and even right in your practice–wise leaders know when to move away from the status quo and seek out new strategies for success. 
  1. Spell out your expectations. From running the office to making the morning coffee: no matter what the job is, the person (or people) doing should understand what’s expected–and the most efficient way of doing it. Sometimes that’s as simple as walking through the process or bringing it up at a staff meeting. Other situations may call for online training videos or off-site continuing education courses. Be willing to provide whatever’s necessary.
  1. Show, don’t tell. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” There is wisdom in that advice, and it’s just as relevant for your practice as it is for your community. Leaders should strive to become the epitome of the type of employees they hope to attract. They may not say it, but your people are watching you: everything you do–even if it’s just saying “Good morning”–has a strong influence on the behavior of your staff. Rather than simply telling people what you expect, the best practice leaders demonstrate it every day.

Even dentists with no formal business training can go a long way toward becoming more effective leaders if they take the five steps discussed here. By inspiring their staff members with a clear vision, empowering them with responsibilities and targets, and exhibiting the right qualities day by day and over time, dentists can lead their practices to great success.