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Veterinarian Technician December 2009 (Vol 30, No 12)

Management Matters — Follow the Leader: Are They Behind You?

by Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR

    A leader is not always defined by his or her title.

    It is possible to become a leader regardless of your position in a practice, and leaders often lead others who have the same job description. Leaders have a mixture of characteristics and qualities that set them apart from those who are inclined to follow. On the flip side, a leader can be designated as an authority figure but lack the characteristics that inspire people to follow him or her. Through introspection, you may discover that you are one of the leaders in your practice or that you are seen as a leader. The following are the qualities that you should either possess now or cultivate in the future.


    A leader typically follows an internal code of ethics that steers him or her toward the right choices. Leaders have a "moral compass" that leads the way, so leaders typically do not lie, deceive, gossip, or steal. When leaders make a decision, they can explain their reasoning in a way that demonstrates adherence to an ethical code of honor.

    A leader in a veterinary practice will also follow the code of conduct or ethics that applies to that practice and to veterinary medicine in general.


    A leader should treat everyone the same. Leaders should be fair and impartial and steer clear of favoritism. If one person on the team is praised for doing a good job, the leader should praise others on the team for doing a good job as well. If one team member needs to be reprimanded, the leader should give the same reprimand to others who stray. This can be difficult because the leader must be fair regardless of personal relationships within the practice. Yet, because they are following their internal moral compass, leaders should be able to separate their professional role and their personal relationships and still be able to maintain friends outside of the work environment.


    A leader is always willing to step in and help, even if the task is not in his or her job description. For example, if a leader is a credentialed technician and the kennel assistant is overwhelmed with boarders, the leader should be willing to roll up his or her sleeves and join in the work. No task is "beneath" them, and they will do their best to also help with tasks that may seem above their knowledge or skill levels. If the practice owner has a project he or she wants to tackle, the leader is willing to step in and learn if he or she can be of assistance.


    Most important, a leader is a constant source of positive energy in the practice. He or she may not always be in a jovial mood but should be able to maintain a level attitude that does not sink into anger or annoyance. Leaders seem to understand that it is possible to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and they want followers who want to be around that positive energy.

    Anyone can be a leader in a practice. A leader can emerge from the kennel, the front office, or the medical team. Hopefully, a leader has emerged from the manager's office or the practice owner's desk. These practice leaders can stabilize the team in a positive way and point everyone in the right direction on the path to the future.

    NEXT: Picture This! (December 2009)


    Did you know... A cohesive workplace culture can be achieved by increasing recognition and reward, introducing flexible work hours and allowing employees autonomy and networking time to achieve well-defined goals.Read More

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