Business side of dentistry: becoming the leader you need to be

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth article in a series exploring the business aspects of the dental profession, from starting a practice and marketing to hiring and finance.

dr. Deshpande

If we’re not talking about leadership in a dental practice, we’re not really talking about anything of value, are we? Because what is an exercise without a great leader? It’s a failure.

Contrary to popular belief, leaders are not born, they are made. Some of it comes with experience, other times it’s learned. My personal goal is to one day become the most compassionate leader possible, for both my work family and my home family. To achieve this big, furry, daring goal, you need to commit to reflecting, turning and learning every day.

Here’s some of the best leadership advice I’ve gotten from my role models:

1. Based on John Maxwell’s book, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: “Failure of a subordinate is failure of the leader.” Always remember that true leadership starts with the doctor (not the office manager) and you must set the tone for the level of excellence and hard work you expect in your office.

2. According to Justin Short, author of the Lifestyle Dentist podcast, “Usually people will set goals from a top 10 practice. But if you have a team that is average or below average, how are you going to achieve those goals?” Carefully consider who you will hire on your team of winners.Will this person help you achieve your office goals?If not, why are you hiring them?Wait for the right person.

3. True measure of leadership is influence. “We need to learn to inspire and motivate people, not manage people.” Think about how you motivate your team and your patients to take action? Do they follow your advice and treatment plans quickly?

4. According to Guy Raz, author of NPR’s How I Built This podcast, “reflection is an important aspect of leadership.” Make it a habit to spend some time journaling, meditating, and reflecting on your day. Could some conversations have gone better? Where could you have done better?

5. What is valued is repeated. Make it a habit to thank people and mention what you thank them for. “I appreciate your leadership in monitoring patient S and planning! I thought that was very important!”

6. From Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor, “Be quick and firm in your reprimands.” Exuberant praise in public, quick rebuke in private.

7. Communicate regularly with your team, sit down with them and ask for feedback. Sometimes they can see problems before even you can spot them. They also have better solutions. Involve them in the decision-making and leadership process. Use their talents to come up with a better system!

8. Get into the habit of reading more books on leadership and mindset, listening to podcasts about entrepreneurship, and building authentic relationships within your community.

9. The most important thing we can all do is help others. We are fortunate to be in a profession that offers plenty of opportunities to give back. Will you help your team members, patients, friends and community members achieve their goals? What else can you do for them?

10: “Find a mentor, hire a coach and don’t stop investing in yourself.” This is something my father, one of my biggest role models, told me in 2020 when I was sitting on the couch in the middle of a global pandemic and was forced to quit my job. I followed his advice and feel like a different person today. If we don’t constantly iterate and improve who we are, people and leaders, how can we expect that from our employees?

Let’s become role models worth looking up to!

dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist based in San Francisco. Sampada, a foreign-trained dentist from India, received her DDS from the University of Washington in 2018 and is a UW-LEND Fellow for 2020-2021. In addition to clinical dentistry, she enjoys teaching at the New Dentist Business Club and improving access to healthcare technology through her involvement in Samsotech† You can reach her directly at: @dr.deshpande on Instagram or visit her website For more information.

Editor’s Note: We know that finding the right exercise can be overwhelming and time-consuming. That’s why the ADA has created ADA Practice Transitions (ADAPT), a service that matches you with practices that fit your practice approach and lifestyle. We provide tailored tools to ensure you are confident in your decisions and an ADA advisor supports you every step of the way. More information on

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