Tips to Become a Great Leader

  • by Don Deems, DDS, FAGD, PCC
  • Jan 17, 2022
TeamBuilding_1.13.22Like you, I am a dentist who has a hundred hats to wear throughout the day, not the least of which is being a leader and CEO. It’s a daunting task for anyone, and those who aren’t dentists can rarely understand or relate. Even though there are thousands of dentists out there, we all share some common qualities. 

We are linear thinkers. Step one is followed by step two, and so on, all day long. We were all trained that way. 

We are object-oriented. We prefer systems, like a set of objects that can be controlled and directed. As useful as systems are, they often need changing. 

We get most of our personal identities through work. We are dentists, and that is what defines us. We are excellent problem solvers. Often, our patients present to us with symptoms, and it is our job to identify the problems and come up with solutions. 

We need people around us to get things done. In fact, we couldn’t be in business without a team. We are often convincing and engaging. People look to us for answers, ideas and suggestions. 

How can you be more effective as a leader? What areas can you grow? Here are six great tips to become a better leader: 

Don’t tell your team what to do — plant seeds. Most leaders just get in the way of their team performing their best. I know you want power and don’t want to be threatening. So, start with prefacing suggestions with: “You may want to consider ...” Give your team a clear direction, an untried idea, a provocative suggestion — then let them run with it. If you need information and facts along the way, ask for them. Make sure your team knows the direction you’re wanting to go so they don’t get lost. 

Endorse your team … and mean it. You’re a good person, and you have lots of strengths. Therefore, you are often pulled at all day long to do things that could be handled by others. So, give out positive affirmations to team members, such as pointing out strengths and tasks well done, without stroking egos. By giving team members confidence they can do a job well, you can hand over more decision-making, and, in the process, you’ll get more done and enjoy doing it. 

Increase your personal power as a leader in three ways. Get more data in the form of information, awareness, solutions, perspective, trends and future trends. These will equip you to make much better decisions and provide clearer directions for yourself and your team. 

Focus on improving your soft skills (often called “people skills”). These include items such as how you express what you mean, learning how to better relate to people and learning how to draw out the best from others. 

Stand up and lead. Set a direction for your team, clarify a bolder vision, inform your team of what really matters, and take the time to fully share the vision you have for your practice. 

Solve the big problems first. Make a list of the problems, and zero in on the most important ones without solving them yourself. Share them with your team without overwhelming them, and ask for their feedback. Focus on listening more intently and more fully, then clarify the problems if your team doesn’t understand. Challenge your team to come up with solutions. It’s better to make a decision on a solution and fail than to make no decision. 

Get more breathing space in your work so you can focus on the bigger pictures. Learn to become less controlling of your team so they can do the work you hired them to do. Delegate more, and ask your team for more than what they’re currently giving you. In the process, raise your own personal standards, get more organized and take better care of yourself. 

Focus on your personal desires and goals. You are more than just a dentist, so find other things to do, such as hobbies, volunteering and dedicating yourself to self-care through exercise, food choices and quality relationships. You’ll be happier, easier to be around and healthier, and you’ll enjoy what you do more. 

By applying these six tips, you can create shifts in who you are and what you do as a dentist, leader and person. The following table should summarize and help you visualize what is possible for you.


Don Deems, DDS, FAGD, PCC, known as The Dentist’s Coach®, is a trained professional, personal and business coach, and a practicing dentist. To comment on this article, email