Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

CHA Education – Leadership and Management

By Brandi MacDonald   

Features Education Profession

Recently, I was teaching a seminar where I was talking about
leadership. After the talk, a doctor approached me and asked what the
difference is between leadership and management.


Recently, I was teaching a seminar where I was talking about leadership. After the talk, a doctor approached me and asked what the difference is between leadership and management. I thought to myself, what a great question! Within a chiropractic clinic – in fact, any workplace where staff is employed – I think we should not only understand the difference between leadership and management but also the interdependence between these two.

When I worked as an executive director, I had almost 150 staff members reporting to me. As this was my first promotion to management, I was sent on various management workshops to learn the “skills” of being a “manager.” These included doing performance reviews, learning to use progressive discipline, writing job descriptions, managing performance, and a host of other concepts. When I returned back to the job, I realized that even the best tools in the world couldn’t improve performance on their own. What my staff wanted from me was a mentor – a role model and someone who inspired them, challenged them and held them accountable. My staff wanted to be led, not managed.


So, what does that mean?

The staff, in our clinics, are going to function within our reality in one of two ways: by design or by default. The more design we have, when we create our staffing plans, the more stable our staff will be. The less design, the less stable. And, designing a staffing plan starts with developing one’s leadership aspect.

For the purposes of this article, leadership is verb as well as a noun. It is the act of leading people by creating a state of being for the leader. How do we do this?

The strength of a team is directly correlated with the strength of its leadership.

(By the way, this might a hit a “nerve” when you read it – trust me, when I heard this for the first time, I definitely took it personally. But, it was also the best advice I ever received – it helped me to create strong, self-directed teams in my old job as well as in my current practice.)

Leadership is about looking within. What is your vision for your practice? What do you want to achieve? How stable and strong is your relationship with yourself?

Staff members look to us to provide them with a role model. They want us to provide them with a template for inspiration and motivation. If we are expecting them to act in a certain way, then we should first be acting that way. Incongruity in expectations is a certain step to team dissension. In order for staff to “buy into” your leadership, you not only have to be “likeable” but also transformational. We cannot “change” people, but we can inspire them to strive to be better through striving, ourselves.

Therefore, leadership is, ultimately, about us. It is about changing the only person we have control over – ourselves. When change comes from within, our outer world changes too. This is the true state of leadership.

This is not “fluff” – it is a higher level of understanding. When we get to this level, we will see major transformational changes with our staff and the practice.

This “state of being” is an attractive force that both staff and patients want to be around, and emulate. Achieving this level of leadership is the first step – and then we can, and must, focus on management.

The tools with which we apply leadership make up the art of management. Management consists of the very tangible, outcome-based activities with staff such as performance reviews, job descriptions, procedures, policies. These tools create stability and clarity within your practice. They allow for measured performance growth of both the staff member and the practice.

The art of management is a very important and critical skill for owners and clinic managers to develop. Also, by utilizing these management tools, you can cultivate an atmosphere of objectivity, which reduces staff’s perceptions of “unfairness” or “favouritism”. (Perception issues, within the manager-staff relationship, are often the number one complaint within teams.)

Interdependence between leadership and management
Management without leadership becomes about trying to change our staff – making them do differently or better – and viewing them as independent of, or unattached to, the big picture in the practice. When strategies to grow people are about controlling other people, we are less likely to assist them in any kind of transformational change. Our staff members are not independent entities in our practice. They are a reflection of us.

When we link leadership and management into an interdependent relationship, the power to change ourselves, and bring about transformation in others’ performance within our practice, increases exponentially.

My favourite quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson sums this up beautifully: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life – we can never help another without helping ourselves.”

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