May 9, 2017 by Edward L. Blach, DVM, MS, MBA
Leadership and its impact on an organization or company is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued components of success or failure. Weak leadership leads to organizational dysfunction, poor operational outcomes, and a declining culture in general. The challenge with understanding the value of leadership is that there is no objective measure for leadership strength or weakness, and thus it is difficult to quantify its impact on organizational outcomes.
To witness these qualities, let's look at some examples. In sports, we see many examples of leadership successes and failures. Tom Brady, whether you love him or hate him, is an example of leadership strength in every way. His raw skill was over-looked for many years, because he wasn't a physcially gifted athlete and his arm strength wasn't at the top of his class. However, his will to compete and help his team succeed is higher than most of his peers. He leads by example on and off the field, putting the team first, and competing through adversity and prosperity, every time he steps on the field. He readily takes responsibility when his team performs poorly. He distributes praise to his teammates when the team succeeds, and his work ethic is at the highest level on the team and in the game.
Contrast Tom Brady to Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler was highly rated out of Vanderbilt in college, as he had one of the strongest and most accurate passing arms in the game. What couldn't be measured was his will to compete and his ability to lead and inspire a team around him. Now recently retired, Jay Cutler leaves a career NFL legacy as a skilled quarterback who lacked interpersonal skills to connect with his teammates in a way that was revealed in those crucial moments in competition. In contrast to Tom Brady's teammates, who always believe Tom will succeed in crucial situations, Jay Cutler hasn't inspired similar confidance from his teammates, as historically, in crucial situations, he wouldn't persist and perform at the highest level. Often, in crucial situations, he would fall backwards while throwing passes under pressure and interceptions or fumbles might result, and the team would lose. After the game, when questioned, Cutler would exhibit a surly attitude towards media, and would not take responsibility for the team failure. He seemed uncommitted when compared to someone like Tom Brady.
Veterinary practices are very similar to these football teams. The best leaders, through their communications of clarity of expectations, and actions that illustrate that they will look after the business and every member of the team, lead practices that operate at a much higher level than practices without strong leadership. Leadership that lacks commitment to the business and its people becomes obvious, and every team member sees it. And if the leader isn't committed fully, then the culture in the practice will be similar. Operational results will reflect this culture.
In spite of the difficulty in measuring the quality and impact of leadership directly, never underestimate its impact. Invest in developing great leaders in your practice.