Suki Singh looks at what it means to lead and manage well, and the difference between the two…
Successfully running a business such as a dental practice requires strong leadership and good management. The two are not interchangeable terms, as people sometimes think, and don’t necessarily come from the same person within the practice.
However, great leaders can feel that they also have to be great managers and vice versa, but that often means you end up being neither as it’s an impossible task to wear both hats well. What, then, is the difference between leading well and managing well? And how does that look in a dental practice?
A leader, usually the principal dentist or practice owner, has the vision for the practice and needs to be able to communicate their passion for it to the team. Their role is to inspire and influence; to instil the belief in the vision and the enthusiasm to achieve it in those they are leading. That way it becomes a shared goal that everyone is aiming for.
“A leader, usually the principal dentist or practice owner, has the vision for the practice and needs to be able to communicate their passion for it to the team.”
For example, if the vision for your practice is to become the best in your area in terms of customer service, as the leader you need to ensure your team understands that this is what you’re working towards. But, to really secure the team’s buy-in, you need to do more than just tell them that this is what you’re trying to achieve. You need to explain why you believe this is the best way forward, the benefits it would bring to the business, staff and patients and emphasise each person’s important role in making it a success.
Leading doesn’t necessarily mean drilling down to a granular level and looking at the detail of how this vision will be achieved. This would fall under the manager’s role, but with strong leadership inspiring and motivating the team, their job will be made much easier.
A successful manager is one who ensures that the things that need to happen in order to attain the business’ goals are done, and done well. They will identify what steps need to be taken and who needs to be responsible for what task, and then monitor progress.
“A successful manager is one who ensures that the things that need to happen in order to attain the business’ goals are done, and done well.”
Taking the earlier example of aiming to become the number-one dental practice in your area for customer service, a practice manager might identify any areas in the patient journey that could be improved. Maybe there needs to be more staff on the reception desk at certain times to ensure calls are answered promptly, or training for the practice team in better communication and relationship building.
Whatever the changes are that need to be made, a great manager can pinpoint them and plan out how they need to be implemented, by whom and what tasks should take priority. This is not something they necessarily need to do alone either. Turning the practice vision into reality is a team effort, so why not ask the team what they think could be done differently. If they have come up with the ideas themselves, they will also be keener to help to implement them.
“So, whilst the roles of leader and manager are different in terms of their function, they both support each other.”
So, whilst the roles of leader and manager are different in terms of their function, they both support each other. There are similarities as well as both require excellent communication with your team and it is vital as part of that to build strong relationships with them.
There may also be other leaders within the team and it’s important to recognise that quality and empower them to voice their ideas and take control of projects. Not only will this help to share the workload and ease practice management, it will also mean staff are happier, and therefore more productive, in their roles.