The primary requirement for continuing success in practice management is effective leadership. Without it, no matter how sophisticated the practice, procedures, and technology, regardless of how dedicated the people are, the chances for success are minimal. There are many definitions of leadership, but perhaps an all-encompassing definition was offered by General Eisenhower when he stated, “Leadership is the ability to get people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” That statement says a great deal, but most of all it brings up the importance of loyalty. Without loyalty from staff members, the practice manager will always find the changes of success relatively slim and certainly short-lived. There is a two-way street of loyalty within a medical practice.
No practice manger could rest easily if he thought his team was not supportive of and loyal to him. Without that support, the difficult, unpopular decisions go down very, very hard. It is entirely right to expect that kind of loyalty, but it does not happen by accident. It is cultivated through mutual respect, trust, and concern. People are what leadership is all about. Many have erroneously believed that loyalty can be built on personal popularity, but that is certainly a totally false belief.
Character determines how someone performs his or her job. The practice manager who has a good character can expect also have a good reputation, and a good reputation will gather influence and prestige. Reputation is like a bond. Professional ability determines how much discretion someone will be allowed. Add to the foregoing professional talent, and the characteristics of a leader begin to take shape.
Loyalty is the foundation of professional character. It is easy for a practice manager to be loyal to physician owners, but it is difficult for him to develop loyalty to himself in his staff members. This must be done through demonstrated performance as a leader. Perhaps the best building block a practice manager has for the development of loyalty is standing up for his team when they are right. Loyalty is a characteristic that must be developed to its fullest extent immediately. Without it, a practice manager cannot be a successful leader.
Loyalty is frequently tested. It is very easy to react to an allegation against a staff member without getting all of the facts. It is even more tempting to form judgments when there are seemingly solid facts to support the judgment.
Loyalty is at the very core of leadership. It can never be legislated, bought, or commanded. It has to be earned and fostered through interactions with all members of the practice. The practice manager who is concerned, supportive, and interested in his subordinates and peers will instill a genuine sense of loyalty to himself in them. He would want no less of his physician owners and, without question, he owes it to them.
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