5 Qualities of a Veterinary Leader
s an owner or manager, you may consider yourself the primary leader in your veterinary practice. While this is understandable, it’s important to recognize and nurture leadership skills in other members of your team as well, regardless of their current role or status. When you do this, you ensure that every employee becomes invested in the success of your practice. Not only will this drive growth and profitability, but it’ll also reduce staff turnover. Longer tenure equals greater stability which equals happier clients and ultimately more sustainable success for your business.
The first step in creating this type of culture of trust and accountability is to identify the characteristics of leadership each of your team members possesses. Here are five such qualities to look for.
In the late nineties, a bunch of studies were conducted which yielded surprising results: namely that when it comes to being an effective leader, emotional intelligence (EQ) is more than twice as important as IQ. EQ is defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” In the veterinary industry, we already know how critical it is to be able to handle one’s emotions when dealing with clients and patients, but for leaders, this control must carry over to colleagues as well.
According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence is comprised of five unique skillsets: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The good news is, EQ can be learned, developed and improved upon. Often, it just requirs the breaking of old habits and forming of new ones.
It used to be that unwavering strength was the mark of a good leader. People in positions of leadership were taught to never reveal any signs of weakness. In reality, it is the ability and willingness to demonstrate vulnerability that is the ultimate mark of courage. Renowned social scientist and expert Brene’ Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” She goes on to point out that “vulnerability is the catalyst for courage, compassion and connection.”
Truly effective leaders recognize that by allowing themselves to be vulnerable from time to time, they will subsequently encourage others to be vulnerable as well. Actions such as this require transparency, humility and trust, all of which are foundational to strong, healthy relationships (even in the workplace).
Good leaders recognize the importance of listening to understand the message that the other person is trying to convey. They ask thoughtful questions and seek insight through active, engaged listening. Creating the type of work environment described above requires a culture where feedback isn’t just encouraged but routinely put into action. Where each and every team member is taught to welcome, understand and value perspectives that differ from their own.
In the book ‘The Servant Leader,’ author James Autry pointed out that being present, which is the hallmark of strong, open communication, means “having your whole self available at all times – available to yourself as you try to bring your values to bear on the work at hand, and available to others as you respond to the problems and issues and challenges of team members…” In other words, great leaders possess and employ the ability to focus solely on the subject at hand, whether it be a client’s desires, a patient’s care or a colleague’s needs.
We live in a society where being true to ourselves and our values is becoming increasingly difficult. True leaders are capable of shunning the temptation to sway from their beliefs, refusing to compromise on their principles, regardless of what’s at stake. They cling to their core values and exhibit unwavering integrity even when things get difficult. In other words, they stay true to themselves, always. Individuals who exhibit this raw authenticity set the standard for others within the organization.
If there’s one thing that stays the same in business, regardless of industry, it’s that that change is inevitable. In the veterinary industry, this could involve something as major as learning a new way to perform a medical procedure, or it could be as simple as making minor tweaks to your receptionist’s phone script.
The point is, true leaders understand the value of keeping an open mind and a forward-focused attitude. They are perpetually curious, always eager to learn and constantly seeking newer and better ways to do things. They aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. And as a result, not only do their practices run better, but their clients and patients always receive the highest level of care. The result? Consistency, loyalty and longevity on both sides of the spectrum.
Do any of your employees exhibit one or more of the above characteristics? Chances are, the answer is yes. As a practice manager or owner, it’s your job to find ways to nurture and develop those skills. This will enable you to create a positive, productive culture and a team of engaged future leaders who will work tirelessly to help your practice achieve continued success.