Vicki McManus Peterson, Co-Founder & CEO of Productive Dentist Academy, a four-time recipient of Inc. 5000’s list of fastest-growing private companies. Vicki is a twice-published author, celebrated public speaker, and has owned and operated several successful dental practices over the span of her 30-year career in dentistry. Looking to take your leadership to the next level? Contact vicki@productivedentist. com or 800-575-6077.

Empowered Leadership


Look around. Everywhere you search you can see old systems breaking down. The old political guard, rigid business models, discriminatory racial and gender barriers… they are all being chipped away. This is great news for the leaders emerging into dentistry to lead us into 2020 and beyond.

For over 2000 years, our societies have been run from the top down. Leadership was essentially, “I say, you do.” The social foundations that supported this hierarchy taught us to find someone or something that we believed in and then devote ourselves, and perhaps our life’s work, to it. The keys to life were hidden in the halls of political power, monasteries and ashrams, and within the family structures of the wealthy and privileged. Most people rarely had a choice about occupations and were grateful for what came their way. Children often followed in the footsteps of their parents. Bakers became bakers, miners were miners, farmers were farmers, etc. Individualistic or creative thought as to occupations simply wasn’t something most people pondered.

This social backdrop highlights the leadership that led to the industrial revolution. Some of America’s largest companies of today were created in this top-down, hierarchical form. In 1790, the first American factory, Slater Mill, a Rhode Island cotton-spinning factory, triggered the boom of the textile industry.

DuPont Chemical (founded 1802): This chemical manufacturing giant holds trademarks on goods ranging from dyes to Teflon and Kevlar and has stood the test of nearly 218 years.

Atkins & Pearch (founded 1817): A Kentucky-based textile manufacturer that has produced materials for the Civil War and both World Wars, still stands today.

Ford Motor Company (founded 1908): Brought us the invention of the assembly line – arranging machines, tools, and people into efficiency groups.

There are hundreds of other examples of highly successful companies with stories like the above. The point is that in the history of business in our country, society supported an authoritarian style of leadership. For the most part, people “went along to get along.” Leaders were chosen through financial/political connections, charisma, and first to market. Most business school education from the 1950s until today has focused on Six Sigma lean-efficiency training, military tactics or sports metaphors. People are viewed as cogs in a wheel. The input needed to gain a certain output.

Empowered Leadership

The foundation of authoritative leadership is breaking down. It has taken incredibly courageous rabble-rousers and union busters and spiritual leaders to start breaking through on issues of equality amongst races, sexes and religious persuasions. Are we fully sovereign in our being, embodying all the natural traits of equality and emotional satisfaction work can provide? Not quite. But the leaders of tomorrow are embracing these traits now!

The key to success in this next evolution of business leadership will be to continue breaking down the silos of power through networking. All the information is out of the shadows and readily available thanks to the internet. This equalizer has leveled the playing field and opened opportunity for the masses. The focus is no longer on finding a singular guru or religious affiliation, a business leader, a political party to believe in and attach one’s self to. Instead the focus is on becoming your own leader; a seeker of wholeness and emotional satisfaction from within!

We’ve witnessed a surge of motivational speakers, personal transformation workshops and a deeper understanding of what makes us tick. Societal shifts now accept the exploration of world religion, yoga, meditation, spirituality, alternative healing, holistic nutrition, inclusive political views and business that empowers the soul.

Stop the train! “Business that Empowers the Soul?” How does one lead towards this?

Suffice it to say, with a more self-aware and educated workforce, leaders have their work cut out for them. Not only do you shoulder the vision and financial health of the business, but also the emotional health of your workforce. Navigating the soft-skills of leadership is an exciting new communication challenge that this next generation of leaders are embracing with enthusiasm.

These shifts in society are bringing out both the best and the worst in people and systems. While we see the rise of equality, we are also experiencing a global rise in terrorism, and a local rise in anxiety, depression, and suicide. Bringing calm to the center of chaos is a new tool in a leader’s tool kit. Here are a few other traits leaders of the new paradigm need to embrace:

Inclusiveness: With four generations in the workforce, now is a great time to learn how to embrace diversity and build a culture of open communication that includes the wisdom and talents of all age groups. Dental Entrepreneur Spring 2019 35

Life Balance Benefits: The standard two weeks’ vacation and stingy maternity benefits won’t cut it in the future. Companies are getting creative in their benefit packages and offering alternative work options and arrangements such as remote work or partial remote work.

Consequences & Boundaries: One of the downsides of technology and mobility is the breaking down of common courtesy. Younger generations are vocal about their rights, yet sometimes don’t see the impact of their actions on those around them. Leaders who take a firm stand on the cultural values and behaviors will create a healthier environment for all.

Leading Through Teams

My business partner at Productive Dentist Academy, Dr. Bruce B. Baird, is a remarkable clinician and leader in his dental practice. His benchmarks for empowered leadership include low team turn-over, year-over-year business growth, and high case acceptance with patients. Bruce’s core team has been with him for more than 10 years, some as long as 25. He has been a pioneer in helping other dentists increase their diagnostic skills and productivity per hour from a national average of $425 per hour to more than $1200 per hour. I’ve stood witness to his practice growing from $1.4 million to $4.2 million in the previous fifteen years. There is only one way to achieve this kind of quality growth – Empowered Leadership.

Dr. Baird’s core philosophy is to inspire team loyalty and fully delegate ownership of each area of the practice. He doesn’t focus on “how” the team gets things done, but rather on the “commitment” to a shared outcome. Here are key leadership take-aways that highlight the difference between authoritative and empowered leadership:

The Business of the Future

Bill Gates once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Now is the time to respond and step up. I invite you to take the Empowered Leader Challenge and join progressive thinkers around the world.

For the next 21 days, focus one of these Empowered Leadership Habits. Choose an accountability partner and text them at the end of each day for three weeks. You earn a point each day that you “put forth effort” toward the habit. Don’t judge how effective, how awkward or how successful the effort is. The win is in the focus and attempt to change.

Empowered Leadership Habits:

  • Delegate ownership of outcome
  • Mentor skill sets to prepare for delegation
  • Show gratitude
  • Celebrate daily wins
  • Communicate driving values
  • Reinforce excellence
  • Make corrections in private
  • Be clear on priorities
  • Smile!

Make this fun by choosing a new trait every three weeks until you’ve integrated them all … then make up your own list!