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Leadership. Really?

Colin Campbell
by Colin Campbell on 13/04/18 18:00


Four times this year I have been asked to speak on leadership having never been asked to speak on leadership before.

I’d like to think it’s because I have become a great leader, but the truth is sadly different.

Leadership has become cool and trendy, it’s on the front cover of almost every business book and in every business article I have ever seen. We’ve moved on from entrepreneur to leader.

I’ve been asked by The Great Dhru Shah to speak at his Dentinal Tubules study club Directors day on Saturday on leadership and I am happy to chat to them about it on those terms. I’ll also be speaking at the Practice Plan event at the Dentistry show on the same subject with a slightly different slant.

So, what is the big deal?

In a few weeks-time I’ll complete a 6-day course at Level 7 in Leadership, but being the great leader I am I will have missed 2 of the days because I was away or on holiday (one is strategic Finance and one in strategic Human Recourses).

In my defence though Charlotte, my amazing Finance Manager and Hayley, my amazing General Manager and Human Resources guru will have filled in for me on those days.

One of the things that I learned on this course is that there are a trillion models for leadership that you can teach to BMA students and all are perhaps the same very limited value.

Call it what you will, however, there is no question that dentistry needs leaders and leadership. In a study carried out in 2010 by a huge HR company in the USA, over a three-month period, they surveyed thousands and thousands of employees. A third of them considered leaving their job. In a separate study carried out in the USA it was discovered that a parent’s mood on returning from work has a significant impact on the wellbeing of their children.

Apparently, it’s better to work long hours in a job that you love than short hours in a job that you hate (at least for your children’s benefit).

This comes off the back of almost every recent study on work or engagement showing that 70-80% of people are disengaged at their jobs!

All of these facts suggest, and this has been suggested by cleverer people than me, that the wave of depression spreading across the western world is in large part due to people’s disengagement with their work and the consequences of that phenomenon.

So how do you sort this and how does this apply to dentistry?

You sort it through leadership and dentistry, for those of us who work in it, is a vehicle for societal change through leadership.

We don’t work in an NHS hospital environment where there is no ability for us to change the structure, we work in either a subcontractor environment or an independent environment which allows us to make up our own rules for HR, engagement and worker satisfaction.

It’s not so difficult, I think, to imagine what the people who work with you and for you would like because at some point in your career you were one of those.

Almost 25 years ago I was stood up in the middle of a busy Maxillofacial common room by one of my Consultants and shouted down for failure in a task that I had never been involved in.

Other senior members of the team that day sat and watched knowing full well that I had done nothing wrong and hadn’t been involved.

It is instants like these that good leaders would not allow to happen.

I learned very clearly that day that if I was ever in a position of authority I would never ever do that to someone in my charge; and I don’t think I ever have.

The people who work with us and for us for our whole careers and in our organisation, they’re not expendable pieces of machinery, in fact they’re exactly the same as us. As Malcom Gladwell said in his book on the principle of legitimacy of authority, what they want is fairness, predictability and a voice.

I don’t think leadership is that complicated at all. I think it is doing the right thing, saying you’re going to do the right thing and then trying to set an example.

Do the same principles apply to the leaders of a small dental practice in rural Lincolnshire as they do to the Chief Executive of a large multinational IT conglomerate?

Yes, they probably do.

By example, drip by drip, day by day.


Blog post number: 1611 

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Colin Campbell
Written by Colin Campbell
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