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Leadership Styles and How They Impact Your Success

By: Tammara Plankers

As a practitioner, your primary role is to treat and resolve your patients' healthcare concerns. But you are also an employer with a team that looks to you for direction. By definition, you are the leader in your business as you are guiding a group of individuals towards a common goal. How you go about fulfilling this role defines your leadership style and can ultimately impact your success.

Management versus leadership: What's the difference?

It's important to understand that leadership is not the same thing as management. Being tasked with the responsibility of managing a group of people does not automatically make you a leader. Good managers have a task to accomplish, and possess the skills and know-how to meet their goals and complete the assignment.

Leadership involves having the vision and flexibility to respond appropriately to the situation at hand. Leaders lead based on their personal and professional strengths, and not on their management titles. As business consultant and writer Peter Drucker puts it, "Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things."

An individual's personality will, to a great extent, determine the style of leadership they are most comfortable using. The most effective leaders analyze the situation in front of them and access the leadership style that is required to most effectively address the situation. In other words, they have multiple leadership styles in their toolkit and are adept at using the appropriate leadership style at the right time.

Six leadership styles: Which ones fit you best?

Leadership has been studied and categorized by numerous business analysts, including Daniel Goleman who published a landmark study in the 2000 Harvard Business Review*. In that study, the following six leadership styles were identified. See if you can identify which ones best fit your personality.

Authoritarian: "Do what I tell you"

  • Demands immediate compliance from followers
  • Goes hand-in-hand with a hierarchical management structure
  • Works best in a crisis situation
    • Takes control and gets the practice back on track
  • Risk if used long-term:
    • May lead to disillusionment and low morale as employees have no voice
    • Tends to limit creativity which can be paramount in solving problems and spotting important issues

Visionary: "Let's do this!"

  • Mobilizes employees towards a vision and common goal
  • Paints a picture of what they hope to achieve and creates a framework for employees to materialize that vision
  • Draws a roadmap for the team to follow
  • Motivates the team through enthusiasm for the vision
  • Risk if used long term:
    • Employees can become disillusioned if vision and goals are rarely realized

Affiliative: "People come first"

  • Creates emotional bonds and harmony within the organization
  • Builds trust between employees and management through open communications and meetings
  • Interviews employees to understand challenges, concerns and how they can be more effective in their role
  • Employees inspired to excel so as not to disappoint the leader and teammates
  • Risk if used long-term:
    • Less effective in time of crisis
    • Can be slow to adapt to change and innovation as focus is on harmony rather than growth

Democratic: "So what do you think?"

  • Builds consensus through employee participation, giving everyone a role and a voice
  • Employees feel empowered to effect change and make a difference
  • Works well in businesses that have already achieved a sense of harmony and respect among coworkers
  • Less effective under stressful circumstances that require decisiveness, such as a staff shortage
  • Risk if used long term:
    • Can lead to frustration and low morale as team seeks guidance and direction

Pacesetting: "Follow me!"

  • High achievers
  • Expect outstanding performance and self-direction from everyone around them
  • Effective in setting a professional tone and a high level of expectations
  • Risk if used long term:
    • Can overwhelm other team members, leaving them "in the dust"
    • Can lead to second-guessing next steps if a lack of direction prevails

Coaching: "I believe in you"

  • Least used in business environments, but proven most effective
  • Develops employees for future success through careful training and guidance
    • Sets up personal challenges with a considerable amount of feedback
    • Helps teammates identify their strengths and weaknesses, develop long-term goals, and understand how they might best contribute to the team
  • May bring in an outside coach, or play the role themselves
  • Risk if used long term:
    • Significant investment of time can slow practice growth

Which Leadership Style?

The following shows which leadership styles you might apply in various situations normally encountered in your practice:

Situation: Low morale due to staff changes
Leadership Style: Affiliative

Situation: Associate needs training in a complex procedure
Leadership Style: Coaching

Situation: Practice rapidly losing patients due to new competitor
Leadership Style: Authoritarian

Situation: Need to develop new office procedures
Leadership Style: Democratic, Coaching

Situation: Practice needs to be more current in design
Leadership Style: Visionary

Situation: Practice needs to quickly increase productivity
Leadership Style: Authoritarian

Situation: Need to demonstrate a new approach to practice processes
Leadership Style: Pacesetting

Situation: Need to implement a new marketing plan
Leadership Style: Visionary, Coaching

How leadership can affect the bottom line

Studies have shown that effective leadership has a direct impact on your bottom line. In fact, according to Daniel Goleman in the 2000 Harvard Business Review, 30% of a business' profitability can be attributed to the quality and effectiveness of organizational leadership.

In your practice, this means that leadership that motivates your staff to be more efficient in their work, that demonstrates how to work effectively and compassionately with patients, that demands high standards yet gives everyone a voice, can increase the overall productivity and profitability of your practice.

*Goleman, Daniel, "What Makes A Leader?", Harvard Business Review, January 2004.

About the Author

Tammara is a Certified Healthcare Business Consultant with over twenty years of experience in consulting and training. At Wells Fargo Practice Finance she heads the internal consulting team, Practice Management Group and helps hundreds of new practice owners each year as they transition into ownership or launch their new practice. She can help practice owners understand and manage cash flow to reach profitability. Tammara has a Bachelor's degree in journalism, is a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants and a graduate of Purdue University?s Veterinary Management Institute. Contact: tammara.plankers@wellsfargo.com or 1-800-326-0376

View all articles by Tammara Plankers


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All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

ADA® is a registered trademark of the American Dental Association. ADA Member Advantage is a service mark of the American Dental Association. ADA Member Advantage is a program brought to you by ADA Business Enterprises, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

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