What makes a good veterinary leader?
Ask a room of professionals this and you are sure to get an array of answers.
Essentially, a veterinary leader is someone who ‘motivates a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal’1. Their role is central to the functioning of any veterinary business, and their quality can truly make or break a practice.
Poor leadership is associated with an array of workplace problems, such as high turnover and toxicity23. Therefore, it is important to understand the fundamentals of what makes a good veterinary leader to build on the skills needed to thrive in this profession.
So what are some of these traits? Read on to find out.
When managing others, emotional intelligence is key.
Given that much of a leader’s job is to act as the ‘go between’ between others (making and communicating decisions, delegating tasks, and resolving conflict) having some emotional prowess is useful.
Emotional intelligence is not only one of the strongest predictors of performance in the workplace, but also central to leaders’ sense of satisfaction4.
Those with high levels of emotional intelligence are much more adept at handling sensitive situations, whether that be between clients or staff members. Furthermore, leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence are more likely to create an emotional rapport with their clients and get them on board with patient plans.
Leaders with these qualities tend to also make good mentors, as they can use their emotional intelligence to respond to questions, rather than react to them.
Conversely, leaders who lack emotional intelligence are far more inclined to get into conflict at work, worsening existing relations5. This can impact organizational morale and performance, decreasing overall satisfaction. Therefore, having the capacity to recognize and regulate one’s emotions can be highly advantageous as a leader.
A Positive Attitude
Human beings are inherently social creatures, easily influenced by the whims and wiles of others. This is especially true in the workplace, where negative emotions can be amplified by various stressors.
Emotional Contagion (as it is known in psychology) is the phenomenon where individuals experience the emotions of others (both directly and indirectly) through social interaction. This phenomenon has been well established in laboratory experiments and is most pervasive in cohesive groups- like veterinary teams6.
Because we spend so much time with our colleagues, leader’s moods can have a significant impact on team performance. For instance, more upbeat leaders are far more likely to see these behaviors mirrored by their employees. Gestures such as smiling or laughing can be highly contagious. Therefore, having a positive attitude can mitigate the stressful effects of veterinary life, uplifting everyone in the clinic.
Positive leaders also tend to have more harmonious relationships, something which clients can recognize in practice. This can increase service satisfaction and draw more clients into the clinic7.
In short, leaders demonstrating a positive attitude tend to have an improved practice culture and hence better results.
Play For the Team
The best leaders are the ones that truly care about the people they work with.
Leaders who scapegoat and blame their teammates are far less likely to cultivate effective working relations than those who take a more humanistic approach. Creating trusting relationships, therefore, can help prevent toxic workspaces – a significant problem for many.
Being a team player and creating a shared vision is fundamental to unifying the team and moving towards organizational goals. Leaders who can motivate through a shared vision, rather than through fear and coercion, are hence more likely to have stronger working relationships.
Fostering a symbiotic relationship with employees can also assist leaders in their personal development. Research has found that managers who have traits associated with humility (focussing on employee feedback and wellbeing) have some of the most engaged workers of all – which pays off in teams of performance and revenue8.
Whilst there is no such thing as a perfect leader, there are certain qualities that can put them at an advantage.
Leadership skills are not only fundamental to the development of veterinary business owners and managers, but also to the success of their teams. Learning doesn’t stop after vet school, and leaders play a central role in the professional progression of their colleagues. So younger workers must begin to learn these skills as early in their career as possible so future leaders arrive pre-armed with the right tools for a leadership job.
Are you a veterinary leader looking to improve culture or learn more about any of the skills listed in this article? If so, we have a complimentary resource that may be of use. Our ‘How to Run a Successful Veterinary Practice-Without all the Drama’ webinar teaches you all about the common pitfalls leaders make and how you can overcome them.
To check it out click here.
1- ‘Who Are the Leaders in Your Practice? Characteristics of Good ….’ https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/practice-building-who-are-the-leaders-in-your-practice-characteristics-of-good-leaders/. Accessed 6 Jun. 2021.
2- ‘The 2019 survey of the veterinary profession – Royal College of ….’ https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/the-2019-survey-of-the-veterinary-profession/. Accessed 6 Jun. 2021.
3- ‘Exploring the Impact of Toxic Attitudes and a Toxic Environment on ….’ 23 Dec. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4688347/. Accessed 6 Jun. 2021.
4- ‘Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: Why It’s Important.’ 3 Apr. 2019, https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/emotional-intelligence-in-leadership. Accessed 6 Jun. 2021.
5- ‘The Impact of Leadership styles emotional intelligence of leaders ….’ https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/handle/10603/208276. Accessed 6 Jun. 2021.
6- ‘Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion ….’ 17 Jun. 2014, https://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788. Accessed 6 Jun. 2021.
7- ‘Who Are the Leaders in Your Practice? Characteristics of Good ….’ https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/practice-building-who-are-the-leaders-in-your-practice-characteristics-of-good-leaders/. Accessed 6 Jun. 2021.
8- ‘Humble Chief Executive Officers’ Connections to Top Management ….’ https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0001839213520131. Accessed 6 Jun. 2021.