A Snapshot of Your Leadership
As the leader of your organization, no matter how small or large that team is, you set the tone. For many dentists and other young professionals, this is a challenging situation. You walk into a clinic shortly after graduating and, given the initials behind your name, you are suddenly a leader, almost overnight. The responsibility and the consequence that comes with this role is often understated.
Leadership, like any other skill, must be developed. But all too often, dentists in the midst of learning how to prep the perfect crown and master the occlusion of their denture, do not devote the time needed to honing the skill of leadership. And by letting this fall by the wayside, they do their practice, their team and themselves a disservice.
The first step to effective leadership is self-awareness. By being able to pinpoint your strengths as a leader you will be able to position your leadership strategy in your favor. What are you good at naturally? What is your tendency when leading groups of people? Additionally, by noting your weaknesses, you will have a double benefit. One, you will be able to know the areas you can work on and strengthen through education, training and intentionality. And secondly, you will be able to predict your downfalls before they happen.
For example, my leadership style tends to focus on being affiliative and democratic. Relationships and team morale matter to me. I know that I will always, naturally, tend to spend the extra time and energy building a cohesive and collaborative team. But I also know that this tendency to place value on collaboration and a nurturing environment can be challenging in times which need quick and decisive decisions. I tend to want to involve the team to make decisions together, so they can feel connected and know their input is values. But in times when a quick decision is needed, if I know this tendency is going to slow down the process. In these times, a leader who is pace-setting in style is more effective. I can recognize this weakness and deal with it head on, instead of after wasting time, energy and resources. I can use this knowledge when creating an action plan to combine my strengths and weaknesses into a plan that is realistic and will work.
So how do you get to know yourself as a leader, especially when you are early in your career and may not have had the time to donate to developing your leadership style yet?
Didactic Endeavors –
One of my favorite ways to learn about leadership is to become an avid student of leadership. A fun way to do this is to contact your local business school and ask to survey some of their MBA or Masters in Organizational Leadership Classes. Many times, you can sit in the classes (survey them) and you will not get credit but you also may not need to pay tuition. If this is too time intensive for you, there are plenty of other ways to learn. There are a plethora of books written on leadership style. Some of my favorites include Strength Finders 2.0, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, and Leaders Eat Last. Podcasts are also incredible tools. My personal favorite leadership podcast is Craig Groeschel’s Life Leadership Podcast.
Find Your Leadership Style Online –
I remember back in middle school when the internet was a new thing, we would spend hours doing quizzes on AOL titled things like What Kind of Animal Are You? Well, there is an adult version of this for leadership. Mind Tools has a fantastic leadership quiz which not only helps you find your leadership style, but uses your results to break down what are your skills and weaknesses within that leadership style. You can find it here: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_50.htm
Also, Leadership IQ has a short and easy quiz which can help you get a second perspective.
Also, check out this flowchart from Life Hacker which is a fun and quick way to see how your leadership style helps and hinders your leadership endeavors.
These internet tools which are FREE are a great place to start in your leadership education.
Practice, Practice, Practice –
The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development is one of my favorites when applied to leadership. This model, developed in the 80’s by the Center for Creative Leadership, states that 70% of learning will come from on the job experience, 20% will come from social learning or interactions with others including mentors and co-workers, and only 10% will come from formal education. So what this means is that books, articles and podcasts help, but not more than experience. So one of the most important things to do as a leader is to dive in, to use the knowledge gained from your didactic pursuits to help you be the most effective leader possible and to constantly be open to adjusting your sails. As you will experience different leadership challenges, you will teach yourself how your style responds to certain situation. The single worst thing you can do as a leader is to go in with an unyielding mentality. Leadership is meant to be a dynamic, developing skill over time.