Leadership and Management: Both Have a Role in Your Practice

Real World Insights from AADOM Authors - Ericka Pusillo, MAADOM

Leadership can be widely misunderstood and misinterpreted as an interchangeable synonym for “management.” Some have developed a negative stigma related to the term “manager” and therefore we are seeing a shift in managers calling themselves “leaders” as if there is shame associated with being a manager. This negative connotation stemmed from the failure of well-intentioned people in the wrong seat of the bus, so how do we change the misappropriation of these terms?

The answer is found in understanding that leadership and management are two separate roles. However, both have a place in business.

To more clearly understand these positions, let’s dive deeper into their differences and how we can better select the correct candidate for these two important jobs.

Management in the Practice

Management is a tactical position. The management role ensures that systems and processes are carried out consistently. Our patients expect a degree of consistency in their experience, office cleanliness, and dental outcomes. Therefore, it’s imperative that we have people in place to manage and maintain dental practice operations.

The key skill sets for a manager include:

  • Systematic by nature
  • Compliant (likes to follow rules)
  • Works well independently
  • High performer, achieves results as an individual
  • Likes consistency and routine

You probably have great managers within your practice already with such positions as OSHA officer, insurance coordinator, and scheduling coordinator. There’s no coincidence that these management positions manage THINGS and not so much the people. Successful managers achieve remarkable results through their diligence in completing each task as specified. They are great trainers who can teach each new person “how” and “what” to do. Effective managers can develop any system into a more functional, predictable, and efficient process. Want better financial results? Get a financial manager. Want to stay on top of office maintenance? Get a facility manager.

Leadership in the Practice

On the other hand, leadership is a strategic position. Leadership is necessary to develop people. A leader is a leader because of his or her ability to bring out the best in everyone around them. Keep in mind that as the leadership consultant Alexander Den Heijer states, “Leaders don’t influence you to be like them. They inspire you to be yourself.” Inspiring people is about finding their passion and helping them find ways to turn that passion into action.

The key skill sets for a leader include:

  • Dynamic by nature
  • High performer, achieves results as a team
  • Multiplier challenges and grows people around them
  • Works collaboratively
  • Likes variability and adapts quickly to change

Have you ever had anyone in your life believe in you despite the disbelief you had in yourself? That person was a leader whether or not he or she had the title. A leader achieves remarkable results by transforming people into the best version of themselves. Leaders have a gift for seeing people not as they are, but how they can be. That type of belief can be the spark someone needs in their life.

A leader within your practice can help you find the “right” people to fill the “right” seat on the bus. They have a fundamental understanding of how to utilize and optimize the talent on your team. Effective leaders develop relationships, improve connections and build trust.

Need to improve the office vibe and culture? Get a culture leader or director of core values. Need to provide more opportunities for the growth and development of your team? Get a talent and development leader.

The Takeaway

It is possible to be both a manager and a leader. They are not mutually exclusive. We just cannot presume that everyone has both skill sets. Also, it’s important to mention there are people who falsely seek a management or leadership position because they believe that being a manager or leader in some way makes them better or more significant than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, an effective leader or manager can be one of the most valuable people on your team if they are working to add value to who they serve or what they do. These positions hold significance in their actions and not in their title alone. If you’re in it only for personal gain, being a leader or manager is not the ideal position for you.

Manager or leader, be proud of the contributions both positions make in your practices.

About the Author

Headshot of Ericka Pusillo, MAADOM

Erika Pusillo, MAADOM, is the Practice Optimizer at Spodak Dental Group in Delray Beach, Florida. She began her dental career in 2009 as a dental assistant and now leads a team of 50 in a single location, multi-specialty, state-of-the-art practice with a goal to empower the team to take the very best care of their patients. Her passion is bringing out the potential in others, and she enjoys speaking to dental teams through the Bullet-Proof Dental Practice.

Erika is a lifetime AADOM member. She received her AADOM Fellowship designation in 2018 and her AADOM Mastership designation in 2021 and is currently on track to be inducted into AADOM’s 2022 class of Diplomates.

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