So many of the day-to-day problems we face as eyecare practitioners are founded in poor leadership skills. Be it managing staff or managing patients, it seems like those on the gregarious general/CEO side of the leadership spectrum have an easier time of things than do the shy, reserved wallflowers. Indeed, the greatest organizations—whether contact lens practices, gas stations, or Fortune 100 companies—are typically associated with great leaders.

How then can you go from being a poor or mediocre leader to a great one? Unfortunately, there is no easy path or shortcut. There’s no book (or article like this one!) that you can read that will get you there. Instead, it takes dedication to the goal. Just as reading a book on how to play the piano won’t ever make you a virtuoso let alone get you to play anything well, attending a leadership training seminar won’t help either unless you execute what you learned. To lead, you have to do. The question then becomes—what exactly should you do?

The Path to Leadership

If the desire to improve your leadership skills is there, start with these two easy steps.

1) Listen to your staff. I mean really listen to them and process what they are telling you through as unbiased a filter as possible. When your contact lens tech tells you that “Patients are complaining that they wait too long to see you,” shut down your immediate reflex to think or respond with, “Yeah, I know who told you that. She’s always complaining.”

Instead, take a deep breath and reflect for a moment that those who are in the trenches who bring these types of comments to you can actually help you to become a better leader. A better response might be: “Why do you think she said that, and what can we do about it?” You’re not asking the question to placate the staff member. Rather, you’re asking because great leaders listen to those on the front lines and gather as much intelligence as possible before formulating a plan. If your staff sees your commitment, they’re more likely to follow; you can’t have leaders without followers!

2) Spend money and time on training. Great leaders have great teams that they can lead. Those teams didn’t get there by a simple snap of the leader’s fingers and the team magically being able to execute the task at hand within the context of the proper company culture. Instead, leaders continually commit time and money to foster a sense of ongoing learning and education.

When was the last time you closed your office for a staff meeting? “I’m afraid of lost revenue from closing the office” is the response of a myopic leader who is only looking at today’s day sheet instead of the more typical systemic problem of, “My staff just doesn’t get it. It’s not me. It’s them. They can’t even answer the phones the right way. What’s the point of closing the office for training?”

Well, if they can answer the phones the wrong way, at least they’ve shown that, due to some training—faulty in this case—they can indeed answer the phones!

What most likely happened is that the practice leader never dedicated time to really discuss the importance of the proper way to answer the phone. And, if it was discussed, it was never followed up on. And if there was follow up, it wasn’t done under the context of “We answer the phones like this because it supports our brand of X, Y, and Z.”

Great leaders know the value of ongoing education. And that value isn’t simply the transfer of information. Rather, it demonstrates to your team that you are committed to their success and to the support of your practice brand. CLS

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company offering proven and comprehensive practice and profit building systems. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @PowerYourDream.