Effective veterinary leadership requires a unique combination of knowledge, skill and experience. Veterinary leaders face the numerous challenges of managing teams of employees and developing and implementing successful business strategies while still providing exceptional care for animal patients.
To excel in these areas, veterinary leaders must cultivate certain habits that foster success. So here are five essential habits for effective veterinary leadership.
1) Build strong relationships
One of the most critical habits of effective veterinary leadership is the ability to build strong relationships with clients, employees and other stakeholders. This means taking time to understand everyone’s needs, values and priorities and working to develop relationships based on trust, respect and empathy.
Building strong relationships requires good communication skills, which involve active listening, clear and concise messaging and the ability to articulate your vision and goals.
Veterinary leaders should invest time and energy in building a positive organisational culture where employees feel valued, appreciated and engaged with their work
Veterinary leaders should invest time and energy in building a positive organisational culture where employees feel valued, appreciated and engaged with their work. To do this successfully, understanding personality traits (both yours and those of others) is crucial. There are many frameworks that act as a metaphor for rationalising personality, such as DISC or Myers-Briggs, to help you do so. Embracing multimodal communication that depends on the person is a key factor in building strong communication pathways.
2) Focus on continuous improvement
Successful veterinary leaders understand that there is always room for improvement, personally and professionally. They actively seek out opportunities for growth and development, whether through continuing education, mentorship or networking with industry leaders. By focusing on continuous improvement, veterinary leaders can stay ahead of industry trends, adapt to changing market conditions and provide the highest level of care for their animal patients.
They also encourage their team members to pursue growth opportunities, supporting them in their efforts to expand their knowledge and skills. In fact, the most important source of improvement is your team. They are experts in your business and using a quality improvement system will allow the team to make iterative improvements. This depends very heavily on having a just culture, where teams can openly discuss ideas.
Leaders can also learn a lot from other leaders, and continued professional development (CPD) is a great way to do this. Conferences allow networking and exchange of ideas in an informal setting with a broad range of topics – I have always found this to be a good way to recharge my batteries, as it were. You might also look at further formal and informal training, such as an ILM course or even an MBA!
|Find out more about CPD and what this means for veterinary professionals here.|
3) Lead with vision
Strong veterinary leaders have a clear vision of where they want to take their organisation and the strategies they will use to get there. They are adept at setting goals, creating actionable plans and motivating their team members to work towards a shared vision of success.
Leaders who lead with vision are also highly adaptable, able to pivot their strategies as needed to respond to changing circumstances or emerging trends. Never has this been so acutely felt as during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. They are comfortable taking calculated risks and are not afraid to experiment with new approaches in pursuit of their goals, yet they always bring the team with them on the journey.
Leaders who lead with vision are also highly adaptable, able to pivot their strategies as needed to respond to changing circumstances or emerging trends
Take laparoscopy, for example. It is a fantastic modality that offers real-world benefits for the patient; however, it is quite expensive and without the whole team’s engagement, it can be very frustrating:
- Without the clinical team’s understanding, the technique, set-up and maintenance of cases can be a drag on resources
- Without the front-of-house team being engaged, the cases won’t get booked in the first place! Receptionists are the cornerstone when it comes to reinforcing the clinical team messages
- If management doesn’t get the pricing correct, it will be under-used
The vision behind any investments must be communicated practice-wide to be successful. Therefore, leaders should ensure each team member feels they are properly prepared, trained and ready to participate in new schemes.
4) Develop strong operational skills
Successful veterinary leaders understand that running a successful practice requires strong operational skills. This includes the ability to manage finances, optimise workflows and develop effective marketing and business strategies.
Leaders who excel in these areas have a deep understanding of the veterinary industry, including current trends, best practice and emerging technologies. They are skilled at leveraging data to inform their decision making and are always on the lookout for new opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce costs and drive the best standards of individual patient care.
5) Lead by example
Finally, effective veterinary leaders lead by example, setting the tone for their team members and modelling the behaviours they want to see in others. This means showing up on time, being prepared and organised, and treating others with respect and kindness.
Effective veterinary leaders lead by example, setting the tone for their team members and modelling the behaviours they want to see in others
Leaders who lead by example are also accountable for their actions and take ownership of their mistakes. They are transparent in their communication and encourage open and honest dialogue among team members.
In conclusion, effective veterinary leadership requires a unique combination of skills, knowledge and habits. Veterinary leaders who excel in building strong relationships, focus on continuous improvement, lead with vision, develop strong operational skills and lead by example are best positioned to succeed in this challenging and rewarding industry.
By cultivating these habits, veterinary leaders can provide the highest level of care for their animal patients, build successful practices and make a positive impact on the lives of their clients and teams.