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4.21.06 Issue #215

Are you a manager or a leader?

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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Although many people use the terms interchangeably, there really is a difference between managing and leading. Take a look at the chart below.



To do

To influence

To give direction

To show the way

To plan the details

To set the direction

To tell

To sell

To blame others

To take blame

To manage work

To lead others

To have subordinates

To have followers

To be reactive

To be proactive

To set objectives

To have vision

To stabilize

To promote change

To be cautious

To be confident

To focus on tasks

To focus on people

To control

To transform

The conventional wisdom in business is that managers need to keep a close eye on what their employees do. Managers monitor, supervise and control.

They need to make sure that things are being done right.

Leadership is the art of influence. Getting people to move together toward a common goal, sometimes so subtly that they are not aware that you are leading them. Strong leaders know that you can’t buy hearts, that formal authority does not yield follower loyalty and dedication.

So which are you – a manager or a leader? Only you can answer the question. And to do so requires honesty and objectivity.

I’ve been coaching dentists for several years and I’ve seen a common pattern. Frequently dentists find themselves in a leadership role because they have been good doers.

It’s unlikely that leadership was a part of your dental school curriculum. Most likely you studied hard, you completed tasks with proficiency, you learned how to do restorative procedures. Then you bought into a practice or you started one from scratch. And perhaps for the first time you had one or more employees. Voila – you’re a leader! But just because you are a good doer does not necessarily mean you are now a good leader.

Leadership requires different abilities, attitudes and skills. Understandably this is tough. It requires you to let go, to delegate, to give up power, to teach others to do. To be an effective leader requires four competencies.

  1. Know yourself.

You must have a keen awareness of what makes you tick and how you impact others. You may think you’re articulate but if your message isn’t being heard you’re not an effective communicator. You can say "They're wrong" and forget the issue. Or you can accept patients’ or staff’s perceptions as truths that count and take action to change your impact. Effective leaders know themselves and are confident enough to make adjustments in their own behavior. The key to knowing yourself is to embrace your strengths – the things you do easily and/or well – and to develop skills in the areas of leadership that need strengthening.

  1. Know your people.

You don’t need to be a psychologist, but you do need to observe human behavior - what makes your staff tick? What are their strengths? Weaknesses? What excites them?  Without such knowledge, you won't be able to inspire them with the right ideas, the right work, the right methods or techniques. Rather, you’re apt to lead by treating everyone the same. If you don't invest time in studying human behavior, the chances of your influencing others - in your practice or in your home - are pretty slim.

  1. Know your job.

There really are two sides to every job in a dental practice – the technical side and the people side. You need to be competent on both in order to have a successful business. Unfortunately while most dental offices spend enormous amounts of their budget on equipment and supplies (the technical side), less than 1 percent is devoted to training.  If you want to grow your practice, you need to invest in continuous learning on the people side, for yourself and your staff.

  1. Know the principles of leadership

To play the leadership game, you've got to know the rules. An understanding of leadership principles gives you insight, vision, and direction—even when you are bombarded with a multitude of demands. Read a book on leadership. Attend a seminar or workshop. Invest in your own leadership education. The knowledge you gain will make leading yourself and others easier. And your role as leader will become more productive and satisfying.

As you can tell, there are fundamental differences between the functions of leadership and the functions of management. To manage but not lead—or vice versa – will impede your effectiveness. Successful dentists need to do both.

If you want to move from being a manager to a leader, contact Dr. Haller at

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McKenzie Management's Seminar Schedule
2006 Location Sponsor Information Topic Speaker
April 27-30 Anaheim, CA California Dental Association* 877-777-6151 Peak Perf.

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May 5 Myrtle Beach, SC South Carolina Dental Association 312-440-2908 Breakdown

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May 13 Providence, CT Connecticut State Dental 877-777-6151 TBA

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May 17-19 San Diego, CA Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry* 877-777-6151 Exhibit Only


June 8-9 Santa Barbara,CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

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July 19 San Diego, CA San Diego Women Dental 858-755-9990 Leadership

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Aug. 2-6 Denver, CO Academy of General Dentistry* 877-777-6151 TBA

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Aug 10-11 Santa Barbara, CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

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Sept. 15-17 San Francisco, CA California Dental Association* 877-777-6151 Exhibit Only


Sept 21-22 Santa Barbara, CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

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Sept. 29-30 Oviedo, Spain Clinica Sicilia 877-777-6151 Over/Top Issue

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Oct. 7-8 Warsaw, Poland UNO Dental 877-777-6151 TBA

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Nov. 8 San Diego, CA San Diego Women's Dental 858-755-9990 Top Issues

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Nov. 17 Concord, NH New Hampshire Dental Society 312-440-2908 Breakdown

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Dec. 7-8 Santa Barbara,CA The Art of Endodontics 800-528-1590 Max. Prod.

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* McKenzie Management will be exhibiting at this location

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