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Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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What it Takes to Lead
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

Leadership is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time. For example, practiced leaders can make several important decisions about an issue in the time it takes others to understand the question. Many people wonder how good leaders know how to make the best decisions, often under immense pressure. The process of making these decisions comes from an accumulation of experiences and encounters with a multitude of different circumstances, personality types and unforeseen failures. More so, the decision-making process requires an acute understanding of the cause and effect of behavioral and circumstantial patterns. Knowing the intelligence and interconnection points of the variables involved in these patterns allows a leader to confidently make decisions and project the probability of their desired outcomes. Here are 12 valuable tips to consider in becoming a great leader:

1. Be Accountable. Successful leaders know when to “fall on the sword.” Don’t be quick to blame or hold others accountable. Great leaders model for their people that they are all part of the team, win or lose.

2. Make Others Feel Safe to Speak-Up. Many times leaders intimidate their colleagues with their title and power when they walk into a room. Successful leaders deflect attention away from themselves and encourage others to voice their opinions. They use their ‘expert power’ to create an approachable environment.

3. Positive Energy & Attitude. Effective leaders create a positive and inspiring workplace culture. They know how to set the tone and bring an attitude that motivates their colleagues to take action. As such, they are likeable, respected and strong willed. They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum.

4. Properly Allocate and Deploy Talent. Successful leaders know their talent pool and how to use it. They are experts at activating the capabilities of their staff and knowing when to deploy their unique skill sets given the circumstances at hand.

5. Make Decisions, Problem-Solve. Successful leaders either facilitate the dialogue to empower their colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves. They focus on “making things happen” at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress. Successful leaders learn from and don’t avoid uncomfortable circumstances; rather they welcome them. Know that your role is to tackle issues head-on and not hope they resolve themselves.

6. Communicate Expectations. By proactively and regularly setting “performance expectations,” successful leaders remind their staff of the practice’s core values and mission statement – ensuring that their vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed. In this way, leaders can make it easy for the team to stay focused and on track.

7. Provide Continuous Feedback. Employees want their leaders to know that they are paying attention to them and they appreciate any insights along the way. Successful leaders always provide feedback and welcome reciprocal feedback by creating trustworthy relationships with their staff. They understand the power of perspective and have learned the importance of feedback.

8. Measure & Reward Performance. Great leaders always have a finger on the pulse of business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result). Never take consistent performers for granted; be mindful to reward them.

9. Challenge People to Think. The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more. Research shows that when employees feel challenged in their jobs, they have greater satisfaction and engagement.

10. Invest in Relationships. Successful leaders don’t focus on protecting their domain; instead they expand it by investing in mutually beneficial relationships. Leaders associate themselves with “lifters” and other leaders – people who can help them broaden their sphere of influence. Not only for their own advancement, but that of others.

12. Ask Questions, Seek Counsel. Asking questions and seeking counsel is more a sign of strength than weakness, ironic as that sounds. You might want to exude a perception of knowing it all, however don’t fool yourself into believing this. We all can benefit from time to time from an objective standpoint.

13. Genuinely Enjoy Responsibilities. Great leaders love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create. In your leadership role as a Dentist, focus on your ability to serve others. This can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do.

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 jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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