First steps to good leadership – whatever your position

Posted on March 28, 2017 by Anne-Marie Svendsen Aylott

Staff talking in a veterinary practiceLeadership is one of those interesting words that is difficult to define, mostly because the definition varies depending on culture, background and intent. Throughout history leaders have fulfilled a number of functions, from the overt general to the gentler thought-leader, with the only thing in common seeming to be that they managed to get people to follow them – wisely or unwisely.

Leadership founded in learning, positive reality and flexible behaviours tends to be a positive one for the people around them. Leadership founded in fear, the need for supremacy and inflexibility can have a devastating effect on not just society, but individual businesses as well. Fortunately, today, we have come to realise that rather than focusing on Leadership alone, we can identify distinct leadership styles with clear characteristics. And even better – we can start to identify what situations may call for what style.

One thing that is clear is that leadership is not dependent on money, status or job role. Leadership is about combining a clear focus with a range of skills. The stronger the focus, the more driven the leader. The wider the range of skills, the more likely that the leader will steer away from fear driven practices and focus on engaging the followers.

Leadership in veterinary practice

Leadership within the practice takes many different forms. Some people have a passion for clinical excellence and wish to drive high standards of evidence-based medicine, but may come across colleagues that are more interested in keeping the clients happy and that are uncomfortable recommending high-priced diagnostic tests or procedures.

Others are focused on a good working environment and are keen to protect their home life and for the practice to find ways to run as efficiently as possible, so they are less likely to have to stay behind except in cases with the inevitable emergencies. Yet others again find that it is the people aspect of things that really makes the difference, and they yearn for a happy and positive environment where everyone is pulling their weight and enjoying what they do.

What they all have in common is the following:

  1. A picture or idea of what they would like to have – WHERE and WHAT
  2. A passion for the subject - WHY
  3. A range of skills to help them get there – HOW

The where, what and why may deepen and develop over time, though it often stays fairly constant. The how is the factor that is and should be constantly changing. Good leaders avoid getting stuck in one particular way of doing things. They flow between different leadership styles depending on who they are dealing with in the moment at the specific situation at hand. It makes sense – after all you may get further with a team member by spending time listening to them, while in an emergency situation it is important that the person with the knowledge and skills to quickly take control is allowed to get on with it.

Understanding the different leadership skills and getting clear on the where, the what and the why is the first step to good leadership. Once this is in place, it is possible to get much more specific on the many, many different how’s that are available to us and to start to think about how to build that particular toolbox.

More on this topic

Join Anne-Marie on 7 June for our CPD course Good leadership in practice - whatever your position

Read Anne-Marie's previous blog post Finding wellbeing as a vet

Anne-Marie Svendsen Aylott

Written by Anne-Marie Svendsen Aylott

Cand.Med.Vet, MRCVS Leadership coach and trainer, NLP Master Practitioner

Anne-Marie is an Inspirational Leadership coach and trainer. Her focus is on helping businesses create a culture of change where employee motivation and happiness is in focus. All her training is grounded in research and psychology and provides in-depth skills in superb communication. Anne-Marie has a background as a veterinary surgeon and has worked for many years with sales, marketing and training. Anne-Marie runs the company PurpleCat Coaching Ltd.

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