September 2023

In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, guest blogger Randy Hall, Leadership Coach, Founder & CEO of VetLead, discusses 5 ways to be a leader your veterinary team will want to follow.  Read on to find out how to ensure you are doing what you need to do as a leader if you want your team to follow.

5 Ways to Be a Leader Your Veterinary Team Wants to Follow

When you are in a leadership role, you have an effect on the behavior of others, even if it’s only because of the way people think about hierarchy and authority. Your veterinary team knows that they are supposed to follow you. That means you need to make sure that you are doing the things you need to as a leader to be followable.

The good news is you can make it easier, or more difficult, for others to connect, trust, believe in, and follow you. Your opportunity is to be a leader that people can follow without climbing over additional obstacles, taking significant risks, or incurring unnecessary stress.

Being a Leader Isn’t About Authority
Some of your veterinary team’s thoughts will be focused on what you want, what you expect, what you will think, and how you will react. That’s just part of being in an organizational structure where you have a supervisory title, and particularly true in the close quarters of a veterinary practice.

But, if your team is constantly worried about what you want, how you would do it, if you will like the way they did it, or if you will find mistakes, they are not thinking about what their best might be. And choosing their best, and then pursuing their best, rather than chasing your definition of their success, is where human improvement actually happens.

Similarly, if they are worried about how you will use your authority, they are not focused on how they develop their strengths further. And if they are trying to guess your thoughts, they are not exploring their own best thinking. Thus, as a leader, you may sometimes have to overcome your authority, not leverage it, to lead at your best.

Here are some things you can do to make yourself followable and cause your team to be more capable over time:

1. Share Your Story
It’s important for your team to see you as a human who grows, learns, makes progress, sometimes doesn’t, and works at your craft as a coach and leader. It’s okay to say things like “Hey, I am still learning how best to support you as you work toward your success here, what ideas do you have on how we work together well?” Or, “I really struggled with this part of the job you are doing, what feels like your biggest challenge?”

We can use our stories and questions to build strong effective relationships with people on our team and that means that we can be more effective as a coach for them. Trust comes from others knowing that we have their best interests at heart as we work with them. And this use of stories that make us human, along with questions that help us learn about them does exactly that.

2. Create New Possibilities
People behave a certain way because, ultimately, they believe they should. Even when a member of your team is highly disengaged, it’s unlikely that they show up for work thinking, “I’m going to do the wrong thing all day today.”

For the most part, they are doing what they believe to be right or at least justified based on the patterns or habits that they already have. When we see a better way or a different way, we are presented with an option that wasn’t on our original list of choices. Sometimes this component, often referred to as insight, is the biggest driver of change, and you can be in a unique position to help them see these possibilities.

As a leader, you can model behaviors to demonstrate that there are other choices out there. You can also create new possibilities using questions like “if you wanted to fill meds with 100% accuracy all the time, how would you change your process?” Help your veterinary team uncover new choices and they will begin to view you as a leader they naturally want to follow.

3. Go First
As new possibilities present themselves, you – the leader – must be willing to embrace the change first. Changing how you work as you explore new opportunities and try new things is one of the ways that we help others think about how they might create their own changes in behavior.

If you can create early momentum for change by demonstrating you are ready to go first, involving your team from the start, and setting a clear vision, then people are much more likely to follow. Once change begins, it increasingly becomes about support and growing as a team through the process.

4. Support With Vision
Once you’ve uncovered new possibilities and shown a willingness to act, getting there becomes a matter of confidence. In fact, confidence is what helps people move from idea to execution.

In fact, letting someone know that you believe they can make progress in a new direction is often the very catalyst that gets them to try. Think about having conversations where you can say things like, “I think you can make real progress here if you simply apply some effort. Let’s talk about what you want to do as you move forward.” Or you might say, “I believe you can be exceptional at this if you want to and I would love to help you do that if you are interested.”

Believing in, investing in, and supporting others as they create a new and better future for themselves is one of the most rewarding things a leader can do. Expect your team to stumble, fall, and struggle. Being bad at something in the beginning is normal. Knowing their leader believes in them helps them become better.

5. Don’t Just Tell Them What To Do
Finally, I hear a lot of practice managers say things like, “I told them to be honest with me”, “I told them that I wanted their ideas,” or “I told them I would listen to anything they had to say.”

People on your team often do not change their thinking because of what you tell them. In many cases, because you are now in “management,” their first instinct is to not believe what you say anyway. They care about what you show them.

If you want new ideas, candid feedback, or open conversations, you have to create an environment where that is expected and rewarded. What you say now means less. It’s what you do now that means more and affects more people.

Final Thought
Veterinary team leaders who are followable can take people farther, build stronger, more engaged teams and help veterinary practices build a better future. We simply need to make being on our team fulfilling and rewarding. We need to make our team one that constantly supports each other as we all make progress together. We want our team members focused on what they do next and how they get better, not the stress and uncertainty their boss is causing.

If people struggle to follow you, you will always struggle to lead. But you get to make choices that help others engage with you, connect to you and accomplish more because of you. That’s great leadership.

Download the handout 5 Ways to be a Leader Your Veterinary Team Wants to Follow HERE.

Randy Hall VetLead

Author Bio:
Randy Hall, Founder & CEO, VetLead
Randy spent over 15 years of his career in the animal health industry. Since founding his consulting business in 2009, he has worked with thousands of veterinary hospital leaders and staff members to help them capture their full potential of their own veterinary practices.


This VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog is written by VetLead. Please note the opinions in this blog are the expressed opinion of the author(s), and not directly endorsed by VETgirl.

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