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    How to be a successful dentist CEO

    The best CEOs know that their success or failure depends on their ability to inspire and guide the people in their company.


    Causes for dentist CEO failure

    In the U.S., according to a recent study by the Center for Creative Leadership, nearly 40 percent of new chief executives fail outright within their first 18 months on the job, and even more of them fail to live up to the expectations of those who hired them. I assume this ratio is also applicable to dentistry.

    Most budding dentist CEOs are not clear on what is expected of them, of their behavior and actions related to their new leadership role. In her book "Lead Like It Matters … Because It Does," Roxi Hewertson presents her view of why CEOs fail:

    High or low self-confidence. "Knowing is the easy part—doing is the hard part," Hewertson told Business News Daily. "We all know what good and bad leadership looks like and feels like. Once in the role, however, people often forget what they know and get full of themselves, or are so totally unsure of themselves which makes them ineffective." 

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    Wrong expectations. It's one thing to be a “boss in a dental practice”; it's another to lead your senior team members. Up-and-coming CEOs are frequently unprepared to deal with the cold, hard realities of working with a group, so many times they either ignore problems that arise or react poorly to them.

    When they were in practice, they could order people or correct people in a one-on-one fashion. They were benevolent dictators in order to get things working. But as a CEO, if you lead by being autocratic, the team will respond poorly and perform poorly.

    Rarely do new CEOs have a clue about what they are really getting into. For many dentist CEOs, it's not what they expected or had the desire or even the competencies to do well.

    Wrong fit. You need many different capabilities to master the discipline of CEO leadership. It's no longer just about you. You only succeed when your people succeed, and many new leaders don't make this shift elegantly. Instead of focusing on work as they have done in the past, CEOs need to support the other people doing the work so that those people are successful.

    Ignoring relationships. Being a CEO is all about relationships—growing trust, building teams and utilizing excellent interpersonal skills. New CEOs pay a high price for ignoring the important process of building healthy relationships. To create these relationships, CEOs need to pay attention to their teams -- not just their own agenda. The CEO’s job is to have the team succeed, not to make the CEO succeed.

    Failure to listen. Leaders tend to think they have or need to act like they have all the answers. In reality, they don't have the answers, and they shouldn't act like it, Hewertson says. “Listening is not a strong suit for many new CEOs, and too often they jump in quickly rather than listening, learning and building on what they see.”  

    Lack of self-awareness. One point Hewertson makes over and over about CEOs is, "Without first being self-aware of one's strengths and weaknesses, it's very difficult to manage one's own behaviors or to be aware of others or to manage relationships effectively."

    More from the author: Is your practice prepared for the future?

    She goes on to say: "It's essential to know your own purpose, values and vision, how you as CEO are perceived by others, including what's working and what's not working for your team. Then you can take that knowledge and apply it to gain and enhance the skills needed to be a highly effective CEO."

    One of my jobs is to educate, train and develop dentist entrepreneurs to be CEO corporate leaders. If they can’t see the changes they need to make and how they need to think and act to identify what’s really important and what’s not, or if they get stuck in management and not in leadership, then a tough road lies ahead.

    Dr. Marc Cooper
    Dr. Cooper's professional career includes private periodontist, academician, researcher, teacher, practice management consultant, ...


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