Too Much Management, Too Little Leadership

In a recent training with office managers, we reviewed one of the most important and hardest areas to figure out for any business – people! Fortunately, the most effective management techniques often involve doing less and not more.

Command and control management is not the way to lead a business. Much of it comes down to how we view others and what is in our power – our “locus of control.” Someone with an internal locus of control believes they can influence events and their outcomes; an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything. To illustrate this idea, in his excellent and data-driven book Good to Great, Jim Collins outlines the window and mirror principle and compares what he calls a Level 5 Executive to a Level 4. The comparison is relevant for dentists and how they view themselves as leaders. All too often executives fall into the trap of ego and self-serving bias.

Self-serving Bias: “Any cognitive or perceptual process that is distorted by the need to maintain and enhance self-esteem, or the tendency to perceive oneself in an overly favorable manner; the belief that individuals tend to ascribe success to their own abilities and efforts, but ascribe failure to external factors.”

The Window and Mirror Principle

Level 4 leaders and Level 5 leaders share many of the same achievements. Both are extremely competent leaders who stimulate performance towards higher standards. They rally teams to pursue a clear vision and to attain or exceed goals. The significance occurs in how the leaders view their efforts compared to other employees.


If a Level 4 were to a leave a company, they would not be surprised by poor performance. They would “look out the window” and point to all of those who are at the company and the fact that the Level 4 is no longer there. “Of course, no surprise that the company isn’t doing as well – I am no longer there” would be the Level 4 response. Alternatively, when things are going well, the Level 4 looks in the mirror and believes he or she is responsible for such achievements. “You did it again” is the thought. Level 4s would feel validated if the company did worse after they left.

Level 5s do the opposite. According to Collins’ results, Level 5 Leaders attribute success to luck. As the saying goes, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Collins found they have a paradoxical combination of professional will and humility. When results were lackluster, the Level 5 would look in the mirror and figure out what they needed to change. Their stoic resolve and determination led them to change what was in their sphere of influence, what they could control. With positive results, the Level 5 would point out the window and attribute success to all of the great people they worked with. Level 5s hire people smarter than them and delegate to achieve superior results. If a Level 5 were to leave the company, they would hope the company was set up to continue to perform well.

The Level 5 Dentist

The application to dentists should be obvious. We often see that dentists believe they are revenue generators whereas every other team member is a cost. It’s as if the quarterback makes all the plays and the rest of the team just gets in the way. With such an ego, it is difficult to be a team player. You need to hold yourself to the same high standard as you would any other team member. You are not exempt because of your position or education. Show up on time for daily huddles, hold weekly or monthly team meetings, and serve others. Recognize that positive results come from the team’s combined efforts.

No patient walks in the door without a team member’s effective phone skills, payment wouldn’t be collected with no one asking, and dentistry is much harder when you have to do cleanings, or without an assistant. If you think your team members aren’t great, you hired them – and for some reason you aren’t firing them. Take responsibility. The results you are getting are due to the systems and processes you have in place. It’s a team effort and you can be a Level 5. Attribute success to the team and look in the mirror when results are not meeting your goals.

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About the Author

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Chris Brown, PhD, is the CEO of Elevate Practices and enjoys helping dentists understand the business side of their practice. He brings real-world experience, working in dental practices for multiple years, while also adding his academic experience and advanced education in entrepreneurship and small business management. He is also a Professor in Entrepreneurship and Small Business at Dixie State University.

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