Are Dentists Leaders?
Is “Leader” just a buzzword used to make us feel important, or does it actually refer to something tangible? Did you complete your dental training to become a “Leader” or a “Dentist?” What is the difference?
Let’s break down what it is to be a leader and see what you think. Leaders are typically people to whom others look up to. Leaders set direction, have vision and generally have risen to their position through hard work, ambition and tenacity, and often with some political awareness of their professional environment.
Also inherent in the definition of a leader is that there are followers. These can be fans, loyal constituents or employees. Do leaders have to be charismatic speakers? Do they have to love the limelight? Do they have to have won every debate in their high school debate club? Not really… According to the research, leadership manifests in several different ‘power types.’ As you review these, think about which leadership style(s) applies to you.
Leaders, by definition, all have some sort of power – more than others who are not leaders, anyway. According to French and Raven’s research in the 1960s, which is still a very used and valid classification of the leadership styles, there are five fundamental types of power demonstrated by leaders: Coercive, Reward, Legitimate, Expert and Referent.
1. Coercive Power is considered a formal type of power used by leaders. As the name might lead us to think, it is based heavily on punishment, or the threat of a punishment as motivation. Coercive leaders use their role to bring about the change they want typically through strict behavioral means. Often you will see coercive leaders threatening job loss or career ruin to try to achieve their desired results.
2. Reward Power is another formal type of power, but is kind of the opposite of coercive. Leaders who use reward power will offer rewards, recognition or celebrations to try to move their staff to the desired state.
3. Legitimate Power is the third type of formal power leaders can engender, and is recognized via their title or position. In this case, leaders who are “the boss” or “the CEO” have legitimate power in the sense that, by rights, they can make decisions that others are expected to follow and/or support.
4. Expert Power is considered a personal form of power, and comes from a leader’s experience, skills or knowledge. Perhaps you have heard the term “Thought Leader.” One who employs expert power is often a thought leader in that he or she has demonstrated a particular skill and therefore is the go-to person for the job or task requiring that skill.
5. Referent Power is the final type of power shown by leaders and it is also thought of as a personal form of power. Leaders who have referent power are those who, according to their followers, are role models. Often we see this with professional athletes or Hollywood stars. In the work setting, referent power can come from being trusted and respected. For example, leaders who do what they say and say what they do.
After this brief review of the five basic forms of leadership power, which kind do you think best describes your style? What kind of leader do you aspire to be? Are they the same? Does only one leadership style fit all situations or all employees? How do you know when to move from one style to another? If you have found yourself using coercion in your leadership role, what have you done to dial this back? If you use rewards, how do you rate their effectiveness? If you hold legitimate power, which I believe all dentists do, have you engaged others in your office to help with decisions despite your ‘legitimate’ ability to make them yourself? Do you think a collaborative approach will win you greater loyalty? If you demonstrate expert knowledge or ability, what is it specifically that you bring to the table that perhaps someone else would not? How do you let others know about this comparative advantage? Finally, if your leadership style reflects referent power, how did you obtain this? Are you cognizant of the impact you can have on others just by serving as a role model?
Based on your answers to these questions, you may be interested in gaining further knowledge and awareness of your leadership style and how you might strategize adjusting it to maximize your hoped-for endeavors in your personal practice. A leadership coach can help you hone your style to get the most out of your staff, increase customer loyalty and treatment adherence, and ultimately bring up your bottom line.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.orgForward this article to a friend
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