The best veterinarians are often great leaders.
That’s because a veterinary office, just like any other organization, benefits from good leadership. From clients to pets to staff, each office has a myriad of moving parts – and a good leader is often the key to making sure everything runs smoothly.
That can be intimidating to some veterinarians; it may be intimidating to you. What if you don’t feel like a natural leader? What if your skills and talents don’t fit into your preconceptions of what leadership means?
Don’t be discouraged. Yes, leadership is something that comes more naturally to some people than others. But, the good news is that leadership skills can be learned, honed, and improved. And, there are different styles of leadership – so you can learn to play to your strengths.
As a veterinarian, you’re called to a leadership role.
Whether that comes naturally or through hard work, you can succeed and grow as a leader. As a veterinarian, you’ll need to.
Here are a few tips to help.
Empathy: it’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It’s also one of the most important characteristics of a good leader.
There’s a wealth of research around the importance of empathy in leadership. It all boils down to this: people are more likely to be satisfied, productive, and passionate if they believe that their feelings and needs are understood and valued. People are more likely to be dissatisfied if they feel like they are only viewed as a means to an end.
For veterinarians, that means treating each client and pet with obvious care and special focus, instead of falling into a routinized pattern that leaves visitors feeling like one more numbered appointment in a busy day. It means listening to the needs of staff, valuing their opinions, and being accommodating and understanding of the stresses that their jobs entail, instead of viewing them as cogs that keep the office machine running.
At the end of the day, it’s easier to pay lip service to empathy than it is to practice it. That’s especially true when you’re stressed out and tired yourself. But, don’t give up. Practice makes perfect – and empathy makes a good leader.
Set an Example
Good leaders are good at empathy and understanding, but they don’t stop there: they take action. Leadership means setting an example.
Good leaders don’t sit back and rest while expecting others to work hard. They jump into the work with others; they put in the effort they’d like to see from others; they hold themselves to the standards they expect from others.
It’s nearly cliché, but it’s no less true today than it was when Gandhi first spoke it: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Don’t be a leader that talks a good game but never gets off the bench. Great leadership starts with an active example for others to follow.
Take Charge of Problems
This is in the vein of leading by example, but it’s a bit more tactical: take charge of problems.
As a veterinarian, that’s what you’ve signed up for. Whether you’re needed to diagnose and provide care for a sick pet, or to offer support to your staff when they encounter obstacles, you’re called to solve problems in your office.
For example, if your veterinary technician is attempting to explain the take-home instructions for medication and care and is being met with resistance from the client, you need to take charge and step in. Offer more information, clarify the situation, etc. – just don’t leave your veterinary technician dealing with the situation alone.
Leaders don’t leave others to solve problems.
Problems will come up – most days have many. When they arise, it’s your responsibility as a veterinarian and as a leader to take charge and lead the way toward a resolution.
Learn to Communicate Well
The ability to communicate well is valuable in any context. In a veterinary office, it’s particularly valuable.
Great communication builds relationships; it overcomes potential conflicts; it helps to facilitate outstanding patient care. As a veterinarian, you need to be able to communicate well with clients, both to make them feel valued and cared for, and to ensure that they understand what is needed to care for their pets.
You also need to be able to communicate well with your team – to tell them that you appreciate their help, to make them feel valued and cared for, and to cast a team vision. A health veterinary office environment is one in which staff and clients are all working together toward the shared goal of healthy pets.
Communication is the means toward that end. And, even if you don’t feel that certain communication skills come naturally to you, take heart: communication skills can be learned. Whether that means reading, seeking training, or just making communication a focus, you can become a better communicator – and, in turn, that will make you a better leader.
Good leaders are good learners. This tip can be broken up into two parts: a focus on humility, and a focus on active learning.
The act of learning requires humility; it requires admittance that you don’t have all of the answers. As a veterinarian, humility can be difficult; after all, you’re the one who’s supposed to take charge of problems, the one who’s supposed to lead by example, the one who’s supposed to be an expert.
And yet, nobody has it all figured out. Leaders need to be humbly aware of their own limitations – and they need to be willing to learn.
So, humility is the basis of learning, but action is required, too. Leaders seek knowledge and improvement. They’re actively looking for ways to build on their strengths and shore up their shortcomings. And, they’re constantly growing. As a veterinarian, this means having an eagerness to stay updated on the newest technologies and treatments. It means being willing to learn from your staff, and even from the experiences you have with your patients.
You’ll grow as a leader if you never stop learning.
Hopefully, these tips have gotten the gears turning in your leadership journey. No matter where you are on the journey – whether you’re an established leader, a natural communicator, or a slightly intimidated new veterinarian – there’s always room to grow as a leader.
At VPR Cloud, we believe that veterinarians are meant to be leaders. And, we take pride in helping facilitate veterinary leadership through the tools we offer.
VPR Cloud is the only veterinary reference built by veterinarians, for veterinarians. It’s a dependable, easy-to-use drug reference that makes providing high-quality care easier.
You can store information about every animal you treat, so you’ll easily be able to track current and previous prescriptions. You can save time on administrative elements, instead of spending time manually referencing a drug index. And, VPR Cloud allows you to easily provide your client with an information sheet, featuring the most current accurate information about the medications you may be prescribing.
VPR Cloud can help you to facilitate great communication. And, it’ll cut administrative time, giving you more time to spend honing your veterinary leadership skills.
Great veterinarians are great leaders. Get in touch with us online to find out how VPR Cloud can help you grow in both roles.