October 2014
Volume 5, Issue 10

Strength at Top Is Key to Bottom Line

Begin with the basics in identifying those who will take your business forward

By Susan van Kinsbergen, CDT

The ground shifted several years ago when the economy took a downturn. Now with the recession behind us, some dental laboratories are still feeling the aftermath, making strong leadership even more important for your business’ success in this competitive landscape.

In the past, managers were simply expected to maintain the status quo to keep the business moving. Leaders of today have to broaden their focus, watching for subtle shifts in technology and society. They must plan ahead but be able to adapt their strategies to the constant changes in our industry.

“Leadership is managing change. Management is leading stability,” wrote Marc Compeau, contributor to Forbes magazine. If constant change in your laboratory is the norm, then your focus should be leading your business into the future. Implementing a production change, such as introducing CAD/CAM, requires a leader. Once the successful implementation has occurred, then a manager can maintain that process. Failure to follow this strategy is why so many laboratories struggle to get these new systems up and running effectively.

“I have had the privilege to visit a number of laboratories to offer training,” says Mark Ferguson, assistant manager, Core3dcentres USA. “The ones that seem to adopt new technologies or systems the best are the ones with strong leadership and management. When left to their own devices, technicians will fall back on what is most comfortable to them. With deadlines and quality standards, this is understandable.

"This is precisely why a strong mandate from involved leaders is needed to implement change. Once a mandate has been passed, the manager must follow through by giving the technicians the tools needed to use the new system, otherwise a negative feeling will be generated. This all goes back to strong leadership."

The Science of Leadership

Identify those who make a good leader. The traits of a good leader, according the theory of the Leadership Potential Equation, include the following:

Emotional stability: Good leaders must be able to tolerate frustration and stress. Overall, they should be well-adjusted and have the psychological maturity to deal with anything they are required to face.

Dominance: Leaders are often competitive and decisive and usually enjoy overcoming obstacles. Overall, they are assertive in thinking and attitude in dealing with others.

Enthusiasm: Leaders are usually seen as active, expressive, and energetic. They are often optimistic and open to change. Overall, they are quick, alert, and uninhibited.

Conscientiousness: Leaders are often dominated by a sense of duty and tend to be exacting in character. They usually have high standards of excellence and inner desires to do their best. They also have a need for order and tend to be self-disciplined.

Social boldness: Leaders are typically spontaneous risk-takers. They are usually socially aggressive and generally thick-skinned. Overall, they are responsive to others and tend to be high in emotional stamina.

Self-assurance: Self-confidence and resiliency are common traits. They tend to be free of guilt and have little or no need for approval. They are generally unaffected by prior mistakes or failures.

Compulsiveness: Leaders are controlled and precise in their social interactions. Overall, they are protective of their integrity and reputation and consequently tend to be socially aware, abundant in foresight, and careful when making decisions or determining specific actions.

Intuitiveness: Rapid changes in the world today combined with information overload result in an inability to know everything. In other words, reasoning and logic will not get you through all situations. In fact, more leaders are learning the value of using intuition when making decisions.

Empathy: Being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is a key trait of leaders today. Without empathy, you cannot build trust; without trust, you will never be able to get the best effort from your employees.

Charisma: People usually perceive leaders as larger than life. Charisma plays a large part in this perception. Leaders who have charisma are able to arouse strong emotions in employees by defining a vision to unite and captivate them. Leaders motivate employees to reach toward a goal by tying it to substantial personal rewards and values.

It would be unrealistic to think that these traits are trainable, but mentorship can enable these characteristics to bloom within a person with leadership potential. A visionary leader with an eye on the future understands the importance of recognizing that quality in employees. The success of the business depends on it.

About the Author

Susan van Kinsbergen, CDT, is the owner of SvK Consulting in Newport Beach, California.

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