Now more than ever the need for great leadership in your practice is essential .But, what makes a great leader? The ability to understand and appreciate staff. Positivity and insight. Great communication and motivational skills. Love of learning.
Unless these attributes are in balance, however, your employees will not follow. Too much of any classic leadership trait can overturn the ship.
And trying too hard is a real no-no. Truly authentic leaders make it seem effortless. They know when to assert themselves and when to let others step up, establishing genuine common ground with those they lead.
While some leadership traits are inherent, there’s plenty of scope to work on others.
Let’s take a look at five fundamentals of successful leadership.
1. Creating a productive environment
The best leaders lay the foundations for a rich, fertile working environment, which recognises potential, rewards excellence and encourages creative thinking.
It’s all about mindset. They start with the belief that every one of their staff, given the right circumstances and support, has the potential to deliver great results.
This involves helping each employee to be the best they can be. Rather than expecting everyone to reach the same dizzy heights, shrewd leaders concentrate on bringing out individual strengths and minimising weaknesses.
Healthy work environments thrive when the leader takes an inclusive and supportive approach to staff, encouraging their feedback, rewarding their problem-solving and understanding their challenges.
So what leadership attributes help build a vibrant workplace?
- Ability to foster robust debate and manage many different personalities and working styles.
- Strong communication skills via clear expression, clever questioning and smart listening.
- Team and relationship building via empathy, motivational qualities and ongoing support.
2. Building an appreciative self
An exceptional leader will work towards developing their ‘appreciative self’.
Put simply, this involves more focus on what’s working and what they want more of, and less focus on problems and what they want less of.
This theory is outlined by Gervase R Bush in his book, Clear Leadership: How outstanding leaders make themselves understood, cut through the mush and help everyone get real at work.
Bush criticises the traditional notion that problem-solving is the sole province of leaders.
Firstly, ‘top down’ solutions can lead to resistance from those who had no say in creating them.
Secondly, leaders are often too far removed from the actual problems to be able to draft an effective solution without input.
Empowered leaders shift problem-solving away from themselves, encouraging their staff to come up with their own solutions and solve problems at source, Bush claims.
This clears the decks for these ‘appreciative’ leaders to concentrate on positive solutions, honing in on areas of the organisation where things are going right and building on the gains.
With this approach, leaders’ beliefs are seen to be self-fulfilling. If biased towards seeing the best in people, the best is what they get. When focusing on the worst, they will receive more of that.
3. Building an authentic self
Fed up with slick personas, workers, especially millennials, are increasingly demanding that their leaders are real people.
Today’s leaders can no longer hide behind a facade or remain aloof from their organisation’s people, as pointed out by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones in Managing Authenticity: The Paradox of Great Leadership.
Building a genuine presence is tricky though, and it’s not something you can claim for yourself, Goffee and Jones say. Your employees and managers are the true judges of how authentic your leadership is in practice.
This is where balance makes its entrance. Expressing yourself whenever and however you like doesn’t make you an authentic leader – it’s more likely to make you a huge irritation to your staff.
Developing a truly authentic leadership self, according to Goffee and Jones, means striking the subtle balance between expressing your own personality and managing the multiple personalities of the people around you.
This is done in two main ways. Firstly, by ensuring your words are always consistent with your deeds, so leading by example.
Secondly, by finding genuine common ground with those you are leading.
The latter point is particularly important as staff instinctively know when their bosses are faking.
So an authentic leader must show different faces to different members of the organisation, while ensuring every face has a true element of their own self.
This is not impossible, but it’s not easy either, and requires some genuinely creative thinking to hit the right note each time!
4. Managing change
The current circumstances caused more change in a month than many practices have experienced since their foundation. Organisational change is just as inevitable as any other change in life.
Nothing in this world stays the same has never been truer, and we spend our lives working out how best to adapt to changing personal circumstances, working environments, national shifts and global trends.
Yet we often resist it, until we hit upon a solution to the new challenge – be it technological, behavioural or attitude-based.
The best leaders understand our inherent fear of change and are adept at guiding us through.
They know how to calm our anxieties, showing us the benefits of moving forward and mapping out new ways of doing so.
Leadership Management Australasia (LMA) points to the evolutionary nature of change in the contemporary workplace, claiming that change is not only inevitable but essential in terms of business sustainability, functionality, efficiency and profitability.
According to LMA in Leadership through Understanding, smart leaders negotiate change by:
- Skilling up the workforce. This equips staff with the tools and techniques to embrace change.
- Involving staff early and deeply. This increases staff commitment and helps them ‘own’ the change.
- Communicating wisely. Real staff input is gained by communicating change widely, regularly and consistently.
- Being supportive. Specific, ongoing support is essential to help staff successfully deal with change.
5. Eagerness to go on learning
Learning never ends. No matter how accomplished we are, and how high we climb in our chosen field, we can never know all the answers.
This is partly because human beings are inherently imperfect, and partly because the world is in a constant state of flux.
Even if we know everything there is to know about today’s labour force and economy, next month – or next week – it will change.
And we never stop learning about human psychology, constantly finding better ways to understand and relate to others.
Behavioural science has proven that the most successful people are those who know themselves, both their strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge is important to them as they develop the strategies necessary to meet the demands and challenges of achieving success.
While people are the chief asset of every organisation, it takes a quality leader to exploit their full potential and ensure that the company thrives and grows.
The next generation Great People Inside assessments we offer can help you do this we provide unique insights and tools to help you lead your practice in the 21st century. Our validated scientific tools enable you to measure precisely what’s important to your dental practice, from values to operating in an uncertain world, and everything in between. In fact, we offer over 100 customisable dimensions!
To request a free demonstration please contact us
About Directions Unlimited: We are a specialist provider of customised people solutions and services to local and international clients. We provide state of the art assessment and development solutions to help you select, match, on-board, manage, develop, engage and retain top talent.
David Leahy, Director Directions Unlimited M: 0405-691-845