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Fighting is easy; leading is harder

dvm360dvm360 July 2022
Volume 53
Issue 7

Leadership training, part 2 of 3

vet leadership

Flamingo Images / stock.adobe.com

Content submitted by Empowering Veterinary Teams, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner

This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Read part 1, "Take your team HIGHER," here.

Too often we substitute good leadership with fighting our teams. We think yelling at or intimidating them will get them to accomplish what we want. This always makes me think of the leaders of yesterday who would yell in meetings and slam their fists on the table. It was a perverse technique and one that lingers.

The reason it continues to exist is that it often does get results. It puts employees in a place where they fear the outcomes if they don’t do exactly as they are told. As a result, individuals assume they are doing a good job leading when their metrics are showing positive outcomes. One of the many problems with this is that it is temporary. Workers can only operate in an environment of fear for so long before they hit a point of burnout.

When a veterinary team hits this point, things start to break down. Individuals stop caring whether they meet expectations because they know they will get yelled at either way. Some will start looking for new roles and take with them all the knowledge and training you have provided. You then must start over with new team members, assuming anyone even wants to join this toxic team.

I do not think I am alone in saying that this is not what good leadership looks like. It is much easier to fight, yell, and walk away than it is to take the time and energy required to be a great leader. The best leaders I have worked for, and the leader I aspire to be, understand their teams as individuals and as a whole. A team is an entity; every time a team member changes, so does the team. You regress from the “performing” phase of team development to the “norming” phase in which disagreements and personality clashes occur as the team works toward cohesion.1 The unique learning, life, and communication dynamics of the team shape it.

This means you need to understand members of your team as the unique beings that they are. How does this team member learn the best? What is their favorite communication technique? How do they respond to stress? What is their life like at home? Do they bring other stresses to work that affect their day? How do they handle conflict? What motivates them to get a task done?

As you can imagine, this takes time and energy. The good news is there are tests and companies that can help you assess the individual and the team more quickly. You will still need to devote your energy to understanding and leveraging those results. None of these tests can answer the question of what their lives look like outside of work. Show your team you care about them by asking regular, thoughtful questions and remembering the details of their lives.

When you lead a team this way and treat them with respect, you will find yourself leading more high-performing teams. It is not a coincidence; it is your leadership. Your teams will want to work with and for you. They will want to meet metrics and goals because they value your opinion and praise. Most importantly, they will want to make the team, themselves, and their leaders successful. Invest the time in your team now, and it will pay huge dividends in the future.


  1. Tuckman's stages of group development. Wikipedia. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuckman%27s_stages_of_group_development
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