Taking on a leadership role in a dental clinic is to accept a whole host of responsibilities, not to mention that leaders act as the glue that holds the entire team together. So, whether youre the Dental Office Manager or the Dental Owner, it is in your hands to be a leader that can run the clinic smoothly and resolve any issues quickly and effectively down the road. 

While researching this particular article, I noticed how many blog posts and articles exist that describe what it takes to be an effective leader but very few about what actions should be avoided. I have dealt with many horrible bosses who thought they were fantastic leaders, but what none of them understood was that being the boss doesn’t automatically make you a good leader. Good leadership requires qualities such as patience, assertiveness, and empathy.

It is very easy to fall into the category of “bad leader” if you aren’t self-aware. If you are the Dental Owner or the Dental Office Manager and you want to be a better leader and, in essence, be the reason for a smooth-running dental clinic, here are 5 big-time don’ts to avoid.  

  1. Don’t  implement rules from the middle or the bottom

As a leader, you are expected to lead by example. This means that when implementing rules, processes, and guidelines, it has to start with those at the top — the Dental Owner and/or Dental Office Manager. No rule, process or guideline will be followed consistently by those on the team if the leader is not also following them. All rules need to come from and start at the top.

A bad leader thinks they are above their own rules and therefore does not have to follow them. This is not the case. As the leader, it is incumbent upon you to not only enforce the rules but follow them diligently. 

  1.     As a Dental Owner, don’t Ignore the Dental Office Manager

There is no doubt about it that Dental Office Managers are the leaders in a dental clinic and are expected to run everything, including the implementation and enforcement of all the rules and processes in order to run the clinic smoothly.  But when the Dental Office Manager isnt getting the support they need from the Dental Owner, it can all go downhill fast. The Dental Owner and the Dental Office Manager must work together in order to lead the team to practice success.

The number one challenge Dental Office Managers face is not feeling appreciated by the owner.

As a Dental Owner and leader of a large team, make an effort to establish a deep, meaningful relationship with your Dental Office Manager to make them comfortable communicating their progress and challenges.1 Establishing this relationship with the Dental Office Manager will allow you as the Dental Owner to feel comfortable in supporting the Dental Office Manager’s decisions about your business. 

  1. Don’t allow more than one person to steer the ship

Too many leaders can cause confusion and butting heads. Only one captain should be steering the ship and providing direction. If you are the leader, make sure everyone on the team knows it. Once everyone is on the same page, the dental clinic will be run a lot more smoothly and successfully. 

  1. Don’t forget to lead

If you have been designated as the leader of the team with the support you need, claim the role. You were given the role of leader for a reason. My good friend worked for a company in which he watched the chosen leader refuse to lead. He was always so afraid of losing his teams respect that he never said “no”, always let his team members contradict him and make decisions around him. Unfortunately, his fear of losing his teams respect became reality because he wouldnt stand up and claim his role. Soon after, he lost it.

Dont let anyone on your team try to go over your head or ignore your orders or contradict your decisions. Raise your voice and stand up for yourself and your position. Be assertive in that position. 

By the same token, a tyrant is not a good leader. Be assertive, not aggressive. Shouting orders, barking at team members and attacking people is not the way to gain respect. No one respects a bully. Respect is a two-way street, so be mindful of your tone and your attitude when making demands. One of the better bosses I worked for had a way of making a demand without making a demand. He asked. Simple but effective. Most of the time, people feel compelled to respond to a polite ask more than they would a harsh demand.  

  1. Don’t befriend team members

Bad idea. And a bad habit to fall into. I have had many arguments about this with friends of mine. My position remains the same: a good leader cannot do both — lead and be a friend. If you’re thinking, “why not?” 

This is why not: 

After a while, it’s all going to go sideways. Leaders have to make demands and decisions that their “friends” might not like and may even push back against. I’ve seen it in smaller companies. The leader as a friend either can’t implement certain policies or make certain demands because they’re too worried they will lose that friend, or they do make those policies and demands despite the pushback, and in return lose that friend.

Afterward, the relationship is rocky at best no matter which way you go. And in the end, you’ve lost trust, confidence, and respect. 

Keep it purely professional. There is nothing wrong with being kind and empathetic to those on your team, but don’t cross that line and make things awkward. It’ll hurt you and will probably cause significant damage to the practice as you will not be able to run the dental clinic as smoothly.

Final Thoughts:

Change does not happen overnight. It can take months or even years for the entire team to change to your way of thinking. If things aren’t happening as fast as you’d like, it’s normal, just keep pressing the issue and monitor the progress. If the change you want to implement is a change that will make it better for everyone, it won’t take all that long to get everyone on board.   

As the Administration Officer for the Dental Office Managers Association of Canada, I have learned that Dental Office Managers struggle with that feeling of isolation when it comes to being the leader in a dental clinic. This is the reason we want to provide you a safe space to communicate with other Dental Office Managers to discuss your challenges, ask questions, offer valuable advice and share in your victories. Become a member for free by clicking the link below and join our Facebook Group to connect with a growing and active community.



  1. Zlatin, A. (2018). Responsible Dental Ownership: Balancing Ethics and Business Through Purpose. Charleston, SC: Advantage.