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What’s In Your Leadership Toolbox?

by Christi Bintliff

Lead effectively with these 8 must have tools

When I first stepped into my leadership role, it felt like I was trying to ride a bike for the first time. No training wheels, afraid of falling, but excited at the same. With a little help and after many falls, blood, sweat, and tears. I eventually learned to ride that bike.

The same is true for being a leader. I have failed many times. I cried in silence paralyzed by self-doubt. I have wanted to give up but was always drawn back to chaos with a mission to find solutions, improve performance, and build something amazing. Sound familiar?

What I learned is that to be a great leader involves a combination of skills, knowledge, experience, and qualities that motivate your team to achieve the highest level of performance. We are lifelong learners. The recipe for leadership will be different for each person. At the core, it involves a fair amount of time, training, trial and error, lessons, along with some well-earned experience. Each person will change the ingredients by adding a dash of this or a dash of that bringing in their personality and flare.

Just as a dentist has his instruments, good leaders also have the tools to do their job well. They must stand ready to select the right tool at the right time and in the right situation. Our toolbox will change to meet the demands of the workforce and environment.

I have many tools in my leadership toolbox.  Here are eight tools that I use regularly…


Communication is a tool of leadership and a skill of leadership. The better you communicate, the better you’ll lead. We often have multicultural and multigenerational teams. They respond with a unique style of communication.

If you aren’t communicating effectively, your message is lost in translation. Inefficiencies in communication cost businesses about $12.5k per employee per year. On the other side, effective communication has been shown to improve productivity, morale, and both employee and customer satisfaction. (1)

In today’s workplace, leaders should take note of how each employee responds to different communications. Having internal communication tools that reduce inefficiencies and encourage productive and collaborative conversations is crucial in leadership. We often communicate in multiple forms: in person, through email and text, and our practice management messaging platform. In addition, many practices use WhatsUp, Slack, and Teams apps to quickly exchange short messages to convey relevant information. Regardless of the generation, most people respond and retain information by hearing and reading critical information more than once. (2)

In addition, the words, tones, and body language that we use in communication are just as important as the platforms we use. They have the power to engage or disengage team members. Communication, slang, and language have evolved over time. It’s easy for employees from diverse backgrounds or age groups to have vastly different interpretations of a message. Listen and ask questions to ensure that everyone understands to avoid any misinterpretation.

Understanding this, I tweaked my communication style to meet the needs of my multicultural and multigenerational environment. Once I found the right balance, I was able to effectively reach everyone.

Be a Leader for ALL 

The key to leading your team effectively might lie in understanding the multicultural and multigenerational differences. Each generation and culture need different things from its leader. It’s important to keep these expectations top of mind. While it’s impossible to be everything to everyone all the time, having an awareness of what each need and wants in a leader, and striving to meet those expectations, will ensure everyone stays engaged. Millennials desire managers who can connect employees to a common purpose. Gen Xers want leaders to be role models who can roll up their sleeves and problem-solve in challenging times. Boomers view leaders as analytical thinkers who are admired, yet distant. (3) Multicultural teams want leaders to understand, appreciate, and adapt to diverse cultural norms and values. (4)

Leaders must understand the needs of their team. Developing leadership skills to traverse a multicultural and multigenerational workspace helps them navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities. This paves the way to practice success, growth, and sustainability for dentistry today and in the future. (5)  This has been a meaningful change for me as a leader.

Embrace the differences: 

Generational and cultural acceptance and sensitivity should be part of any company’s diversity, equity, inclusiveness & belonging (DEIB) initiatives, for both leaders, managers, and peer-to-peer relationships. (6)

Leaders must find the overlaps that may exist in a multicultural and multigenerational workspace. Everyone has something to offer and contribute to a practice. The key is looking at each person and carefully cultivating our work environment to include and highlight the differences that make our practice uniquely different from others. In leadership it is crucial that we not stereotype or make assumptions.

I love leading a multicultural and multigenerational team. I am constantly learning something new. By embracing the differences and interests of our team it keeps everyone in the loop of trends, slang, and technology that are shaping our world. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Recognition and Appreciation: 

Just as a child seeks recognition from their parents so do our employees. They need to be appreciated, recognized, valued, seen, and made to feel important. Leaders should make a point to express their appreciation publicly and privately to those who partner in the success of their practice.

Think about the last time you put your heart and soul into something, molded it into something you were proud of, and nailed the execution. That feeling of accomplishment is uplifting—but it is multiplied exponentially when others take notice.

The simple act of acknowledging achievement is a major boost for employee morale and performance. And that’s why employee recognition and appreciation is so critical.

Only 35% of employees receive recognition monthly or weekly. And 1 in 2 employees would like more recognition (7)

I randomly mail cards or give a handwritten note to my team. I let them know how much I value them; and how proud I am of them. This one thing has made such a difference in how I lead and interact with my team.

Emotional intelligence

Leaders who have the empathy to recognize the feelings of others, as well as the self-awareness to do the same for themselves, will be much more sensitive to how their decisions affect the members of their team. Using psychometric tools such DISC, MBTI, and Gallups Strengths allows leaders to know the differences between people and appreciate how these are advantages in cultivating a diverse team. The more leaders understand their teams the more they grow to appreciate the contributions that each person makes to the success of their practice.

One thing I always say to my team members is “I see you…beyond the job description and the day-to-day. I see you; I know how hard you work, and what you are capable of.”  I can also read their body language and know when they need a 1-1 conversation. Acknowledgment and empathy go a long way in the development of your team members and how well you can successfully lead them.

Strategic Thinking and Situational Awareness   

A strategic and situational mindset helps ensure you’re always thinking one step ahead—a trait that’s essential to all leaders. They must be predictive, anticipatory, and prepared for all potential outcomes.

In addition, leaders must have a double vision. They must see where they are and envision where they can be in five or ten years. It’s what they do in the middle that dictates their journey. They must continually emphasize the big picture view to align and engage their team in a way that fosters growth, performance, and collaboration working in harmony towards meeting the objectives of short and long-term progress and goals and course correct as needed. (8)

These are two important tools and skills for every leader. It involves both analytical and creative thinking. Leaders who think strategically must be able to gather and analyze data, identify trends and patterns, and use that information to make informed decisions. However, they must also be able to think creatively, consider different perspectives and approaches to problems, and develop innovative solutions that move the team forward. Another critical aspect of strategic thinking in leadership is the ability to anticipate change and plan. This involves developing contingency plans to address potential challenges and taking advantage of emerging opportunities.

An example would be the pandemic. My team and I were watching how this was affecting other countries. We knew it was not “if,” it was “how” and “when” it was going to impact the US and our industry. We developed our Covid closure/reopen plan and an economic recovery plan before it was even a thing. We bulked up on supplies, trained our team, and implemented new and enhanced existing systems all before widespread panic. We positioned ourselves to combat the aftermath which included employee retention, labor shortage, inflation, and more.

Both provide leaders with the opportunity of an initiative-taking versus reactive approach. You can make decisions quickly and responsively, adapt to the changing environment and situations, and implement preventative measures to mitigate risks and impacts.


As a leader, we sometimes feel that we need to do everything. That mindset does not set us or our team up for success. Instead, we become overly involved in micromanaging every aspect of our practice. It conveys a message that we do not trust our team to do their jobs or meet our expectations. (9)

To develop trust and free up some of our time it means we must delegate and be willing to trust our team with resources and responsibilities, even if they fail. This necessitates a healthy balance of both wisdom and risk. Good leaders are not willing to let setbacks prevent them from advancements in their future. They will continue to take chances, trust, and to believe in their team. Good leaders trust passionately.

Delegation was hard for me. I have a type A personality. I have numerous objectives and goals that are to be met daily, however, I lack the abundance of time. I was afraid that delegating meant I would have to spend more time fixing. I was wrong. Once my team knew that I trusted them and reassured them that they had the resources available to conduct the task they did. And they did it well. When they hit a roadblock, they let me know and we worked through it together. They will often produce approaches and solutions that are far better than I would. When you create a trust-based working relationship you permit them to try and fail with understanding that you are with them every step of the way. This is how they grow and learn.


Mentoring your team members can be a valuable tool for improving your leadership skills. Good leadership doesn’t just involve leading the team to success, but also ensuring individuals can fulfill their full potential. This means sharing your knowledge and experience with your team and providing them with the resources for continuous learning.

Evidence shows that 91% of employees’ who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs. That portion drops significantly among those who don’t have a mentor — more than 40 percent of employees without this type of role model have considered quitting in the last three months. Mentored employees also tend to feel more positive about their workplace. They’re far less likely to quit their jobs. A that the retention rates for mentees are 50 percent higher than those not mentored. (10)

The reason I am in a leadership role, a coach, and a writer is that someone was willing to share their time, experience, knowledge, mentorship, and guidance in the advancement of my personal and professional life. I would not be thriving if it were not for them. I want the same for my team. No matter where life takes them, I want them to have learned a new skill and experienced something that helps them level up.

We must be open to innovative ideas and concepts so that we can bridge gaps in the cultural and generational divide. Build your leadership toolbox and fill it with tools that help you effectively lead your team to success. Discard the tools that no longer work and that are holding you and your team back. 


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