Leadership with HEART

‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,’ John Quincy Adams.

Dreaming more, learning more, doing more and becoming more; is that what you want and need for yourself, your team and your patients?  

Literature describes four classic styles of leadership; accommodator, avoider, dictator and inspirer. Only the inspiring leader with a values based, purposeful vision, can inspire dreams and actions. Leading with HEART (helpful, educated, attention, relationships and trust) will help you to become an inspiration to your team.


You are most inspiring when you are helpful, positive and affirming; sharing the big picture, supporting others in playing their part, rather than being bossy, critical and fault finding. For some, you may need to tell, show and oversee, but others will flourish with support, guidance and a free rein. One of the most helpful things you can do is to be very clear about your outcome and your criteria for success, being as specific as possible with your requests along the way.


Experience shows that great leaders are knowledgeable and inspire those around them to know more. Einstein said: ‘I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can flourish.’ Are you giving yourself, your patients and your team an environment in which they can flourish? Some dentists feel constrained by the NHS treadmill, while fee-per-item private practices can be reluctant to spend much time educating patients or taking the team out for anything other than core CPD (continuous professional development), fearful of the impact this may have on their finances. One way to alleviate this pressure is to introduce a practice-branded dental plan, safeguarding your current income with a guaranteed monthly revenue stream, so that you feel confident to invest the time you need in educating your patients, your team and yourself.


In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins describes the characteristic of what he calls a level five leader; someone who can create a sustainable business that outperforms its competitors by a minimum of 10x over a minimum of 15 years. A key feature is where these individuals focus their attention in terms of triumph and tribulation. Level five leaders look out the window and give credit to others when things are going well and look in the mirror and take full responsibility when things are not going to plan. Conversely the leaders of failing or unsustainable businesses look in the mirror and take credit when things are going well and out the window and blame others when there is trouble. 

Another characteristic of a level five leader is that they know the values, vision and purpose of their business, set appropriate standards and accept nothing less. These leaders pay close attention to where support, training and additional resources are required and also to where and when people need to leave the organisation so they can fulfil their full potential.


Great leaders build relationships, they are great listeners first and orators second. Listening to others takes time, but pays dividends in the long run. A dictatorial style of leadership may be a quick and expedient way to deliver information; however, it rarely inspires dreams or action. Dental plans can provide you with the financial security and time required to help build long-term relationships with your team, enhancing patient loyalty in the process.


Leaders are trustworthy, true to their words and their actions. If you’re not trusted, people won’t follow you. You can build trust within your team by giving them more autonomy, within the framework of a compelling, values based vision and clear, specific requests, remembering that you give trust to receive it and that this is earned, not an entitlement. A practice-branded dental plan is a great way to build trust with your patients; they will know exactly what they are entitled to, while you will have the flexibility to offer treatment choices that are most appropriate for your patients’ wants and needs. I remember when I first discussed DPAS dental plans with my team, one of them asked: ‘Where is the catch?’ to which another team member replied: ‘There is no catch, this is great for our patients and easy for us.’

Leadership may not have been a role that you had anticipated when you first joined dental school, but I would suggest that it is a requisite skill for any principal running a sustainably successful practice in the 21st century.

You will face many difficult decisions in your role as a leader; who to employ, who to treat, the direction to take your business and how to fund it. ‘Leaders do not do what is easy, they do what is right’ and I know that you will make the right decisions when you make them from the heart.

Jane is a dentist and senior coach at The Institute of Dental Business. She has wide experience of working with dentists assisting them with finding more clients, more money, more time, a more reliable team and a significantly better quality of life.

For more information please visit www.theInstituteofdentalbusiness.co.uk.

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