Dental Leadership: Lessons from Rudy Giuliani
This September 11th marks the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. If ever a time called for leadership, that day, and the days and weeks that followed certainly did. Panic and chaos threatened to overwhelm New York City. Rudy Giuliani was mayor at the time. With only 90 days left in office, 9-11 pushed him into the center of a national catastrophe. Although this was beyond anything he had ever done before, he inspired New Yorkers, as well as people around the world.
What prepares a person to step into a role for which no one could adequately prepare? Everything that comes before it. Having inherited a city ravaged by crime and crippled in its ability to serve its citizens, Rudy Giuliani used every aspect of his career up to September 11th to practice and shape his leadership skills.
Although you may never face an event of this magnitude, you are the leader of your dental practice. This role carries responsibilities. Seize the opportunities to hone your leadership skills and build a highly productive practice. Here are some observations of Giuliani that can help you.
It’s awfully hard to get others to do what you want if you don't know what you want. Be clear about the goals you have for your practice. Communicate your vision repeatedly. Clarity of direction is essential. The more people know the outcome of their efforts, the more they will be energized. One of the most important responsibilities of being a leader is to be aware of what everybody is working on, and to communicate how each individual’s contribution relates to the whole.
You may be smart and well educated, but there are lots of smart people around you. Encourage your staff to think, to innovate, to be creative. This doesn’t mean that you blindly accept what your employees say, but do give them the freedom to generate solutions on their own.
Give yourself the best chance by learning as much as you can about leadership. Read. Get a coach. Research shows that the best leaders enhance their skills with on-going learning. By developing new abilities you improve your practice and your personal life. When you navigate through challenging situations and accomplish your goals you gain confidence. In turn, you’re more resilient and more successful.
It’s fine to demand excellence, not perfection. While it may not be realistic to expect your employees to work as hard as you do or to be as committed, insist that they do as much and as well as they can. It’s equally important that you show them how to make work fun. Model candor and courage. Balance that with lightheartedness.
Make the effort to get to know everyone who works for you as an individual. Observe their strengths and weaknesses, their aspirations, their fears. Offer reassurance. Praise them for what they contribute. If you have criticisms, take it outside the group and tell them in private.
Be modest, honest and truthful. Be dependable. When you give your word, back it up with action. Be flexible but know your limits. Never waffle on your principles. Be the kind of leader who wakes up and asks, 'What did I do wrong yesterday, and how can I fix it today?' Your team doesn't need to like you, but they have to trust and respect you.
Great leadership does not mean running away from reality. Giuliani’s daily press conferences told us hard, painful truths. Sometimes this can demoralize people. But sharing difficulties at the right time and for the right reason can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better.
The potential to become a better leader is well within your capability! Dr. Haller is available for dental leadership coaching and development. Contact her at email@example.com to find out if you would benefit from one of our leadership programs.
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