Willing and Able to Influence Behavior

December 13, 2018 Allison Watts DDS

I have heard many dentists say in one way or another that they are not leaders or don’t want to be. It feels to many of us like a big responsibility. Some would rather abdicate this responsibility as leaders in the dental practice (or life) because it can be hard.

Leadership & Growth

My favorite definition of a leader is from Dr. Rich Green:

“A leader is a person…

Willing and Able

To influence behavior;


Then others

To a preferred future.”

I started my own practice from scratch, owned it for 20 years, recently sold it, and now work in the practice part time. As the primary leader for so many years and now as a co-leader for 4, I know how hard it is.

We have a lot of other urgent and/or important things pulling for our time and attention. Even though growing and practicing our leadership is vitally important, it is seldom urgent, so it’s easy to put seemingly urgent things ahead of it.

But I would assert that leadership is ultimately the single most important tool we have to help us achieve success and happiness.

Willing and Able

As Rich says in his definition, a leader is a person willing and able to influence behavior.

The definition of willing is:

1. Ready, eager, or prepared to do something.

2. Given or done readily.

The definition of able is:

1. Having the power, skill, means, or opportunity to do something.

2. Having considerable skill, proficiency, or intelligence.

Let’s be honest, these definitions are a little bit daunting. Here’s the thing, leadership is a commitment that we “live into.” 

Feedback and Action

We learn leadership as we go. We will likely never feel 100% ready, eager, prepared, skilled, proficient, and intelligent at it. We shouldn’t constantly comparing ourselves against some ideal.

We must notice where we are and make strides toward where we want to be. We must also keep showing up, leading, and getting feedback about what’s working, what’s not, and where we had the impact we intended to have and where we didn’t.

It’s not as important what the feedback is as what we do with it. Many of us who were born, bred, and raised perfectionists have learned to focus mostly on the negative feedback. Then we beat ourselves up with it and defend or make excuses about why we did what we did.

Feedback can be really hard to hear … Part of being a great leader is learning to hear the feedback and looking to see what feels true and what doesn’t. We have to to see what created that result, even if it’s something we said and/or did (all without beating ourselves up).

And then, if there’s something that needs work, do the work to shift it so that things are better next time. We’ll be talking more about that in my next blog. Another part of being a great leader is to notice, acknowledge, and own even small improvements and to really celebrate when we (and others) do something well. So, are you willing and able to influence behavior? Even when it’s hard?

If we want to be intentional and impactful as leaders, it definitely takes willingness and effort to grow our ability. I have found that it is the most rewarding work we can possibly do!

We’re actually influencing all the time anyway, so wouldn’t it be wonderful to do so intentionally?

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About Author

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Allison Watts DDS

Allison graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry in 1995 and practices dentistry part time in Midland, Texas at the practice she started from scratch after she graduated from dental school. Allison is committed to high quality, relationship-based comprehensive care and her favorite subject is leadership, especially self-leadership. She is the president and founder of Transformational Practices, where she works with dentists to become their personal and professional best. As a lifelong learner and as part of the visiting faculty here at Pankey, she loves learning as well as teaching. Her favorite thing is witnessing and creating a-ha moments for people and feels the best rewards are the positive impact and ripple effects that come from improving one’s leadership skills and confidence level. She is a certified coach and a leader in the work of the Ford Institute of Integrative Coaching, as well as a certified John Maxwell Coach.

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