Q: What leadership style is best for veterinary practice?
There are four types of leadership styles, says Dr. Dave Nicol, a veterinary business consultant in Sydney, Australia. Before we get to which one is generally best for a veterinary team, take a look at this list. Which type of leader are you?
1. Autocratic. These managers tend to be very direct and uncompromising. New managers often start off with this style, thinking it's what's expected of them in a management role, but mellow over time. This style isn't usually idea for leaders in veterinary practice, but it can be useful when a manager is working with inexperienced staff members who need structure.
2. Bureaucratic. These leaders make decisions based strictly on the rules and policies of the practice and are averse to change. They tend to be most successful in administrative roles.
3. Democratic. Democratic leaders are highly involved with their team members and gather lots of input for problem-solving. They engage with the team, solicit buy-in, and build consensus when making changes. Democratic leaders also target key influencers to get the whole group to move a certain direction.
4. Laissez faire. These are the most relaxed, hands-off leaders. They give their followers the freedom to make their own decisions, which can be great for a highly skilled, well-performing team but is often a problem for new hires. "There's a fine line between trust and abdication," Dr. Nicol says.
While all of these leadership styles have a place in veterinary practice, the most helpful one is—no surprise—the democratic leadership style. Veterinary teams tend to function best in a collaborative, highly communicative environment.
A word of warning, though: Democratic leaders can sometimes appear slow and indecisive. So if you're a democratic leader, that's great—just make sure that when it's decision time, you step up to the plate and make the best call for the practice in a timely manner.