Staff Management

Laws of Leadership: Tips for Improving How You Manage Your Practice

By Jennifer Jabaley, OD

Feb. 20, 2019

Leadership is a skill that isn’t as straightforward to master as clinical expertise or business management. It requires both emotional intelligence and excellent communication and organizational abilities. Here’s what a book on leadership recently taught me, and the changes I can make to do better.

John C. Maxwell’s “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” is a book that examines 21 laws of leadership that are universally true regardless of type of business or culture. The book begins with the premise that leadership is often misunderstood.

Here are the top five myths about leadership:

The Management Myth
Leading and managing are not the same. Management involves systems and processes. Leadership involves aiming people in the right direction.

The Entrepreneur Myth
Not all entrepreneurs are good with teams and people. If you can’t influence, you can’t lead.

The Knowledge Myth
Leadership has nothing to do with education, degrees or IQ.

The Pioneer Myth
The person in front of a crowd is not always a great leader. Conversely, it’s people who have a following that are leading well.

The Position Myth
You don’t need a title to lead. No matter where you are in the chain of command, you can have an influence.

In Maxwell’s book, each chapter outlines a law of leadership. I’ve highlighted the three laws I feel are most pertinent to our field of optometry:

The Law of Influence
This law states the power and greatness of a leader is measured by the amount of lives one influences. To assess the amount of influence you have as a leader over your employees and patients, there are several ways you can evaluate your effectiveness:

If you want to increase your leadership potential, you must focus on your character. You don’t attract people you want or admire; you attract people you are similar to. Like attracts like. Set your character bar high and your team will operate under the same principles. Character traits like honesty, integrity, determination and kindness will draw a great following.

The deeper your relationships, the stronger your influence as a leader. First, attract people with a similar character, then create a bond that runs deep.

Knowledge or information alone won’t create a great leader. But a person with good character and strong relationships must also be up-to-date and knowledgeable within their field to earn and keep respect.

The basic difference between a manager and a leader is intuition. Great leaders pay attention to intangible items such as energy, momentum, timing and morale. Even if you have an office filled with highly qualified staff, a good leader will notice if there is negativity, toxicity or low morale within your office space. This seemingly intangible quality can create havoc if not addressed by a proactive leader.

Experience alone doesn’t make a great leader. Rather, a great leader will learn from their previous mistakes and build a new approach. Past failures can help you learn to lead more effectively.

Good leaders deliver their promises. According to, 80 percent of people fail to deliver on their promises. If you fulfill the expectations of your staff and patients, they will notice. Even better, people love positive surprises. If you exceed someone’s expectations, they will never forget.

According to Maxwell, the true measure of leadership is influence. Nothing more or less. These six areas will help you align your influence over your staff and patients:

The Law of Empowerment
The next law of leadership from Maxwell’s book that directly influences the practice of optometry is the law of empowerment. The key to understanding this law of leadership is to note the difference between empowerment and disengagement. Great leaders empower their team members to unleash their potential. They realize there is no need to control or micromanage staff.

Secure leaders empower others by giving them the ability to make decisions within your business. If staff know their leader is going to support them, however they choose to handle a situation, their confidence will grow. For example, in our practices empowering our opticians to handle situations with unhappy patients, buyer’s remorse, and trouble Rxs, demonstrates our trust in their ability to handle the situation. Additionally, we are removing another item off of our responsibility plate. By empowering our staff to make decisions, we are giving them an opportunity to find solutions and grow as thinkers.

Finally, empowering our staff demonstrates leadership because it shows our employees we believe in them. When you believe in someone, it enables them to believe in themselves and achieve great accomplishments.

The Law of Connection
The final law of leadership that directly influences our optometric success is the law of connection. This law relates to our ability as doctors to influence and lead our patients. The law of connection says, “leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” In other words, patients are much more likely to follow our suggestions if they are emotionally connected to us as a person. In essence, you develop credibility and lead more effectively when you show you genuinely care and want to help them.

How can we connect to our patients?
Communicate with Openness and Sincerity
People crave authenticity. When you live your message, practice what you preach, your credibility will build.

Know Your Audience
Learn people’s nicknames, family members, jobs and hobbies. Speak to them about what they care about. The number one problem of ineffective leaders is that they focus on themselves instead of others.

Give Them Hope
Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” When you tell someone they have macular degeneration or glaucoma, or a retinal detachment, tell them that there are options and treatments, and most of all, that you are going to be vigilant in their care. Give them a reason to believe the outcome can be positive.

The law of connection means we understand our patient’s identities, meet them where they are and build a connection to form a relationship.

John C. Maxwell’s book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” demonstrates that leadership can be learned. Using three of the 21 principles from his book, you can expand your leadership skills with your staff and patients.

What have you learned over the years about how best to lead your practice? What tips can you pass along to other practice owners about what to do, and what not to do?


Jennifer Jabaley, OD, is a partner with Jabaley Eye Care in Blue Ridge, Ga. To contact her:

To Top
Subscribe Today Free...
And join more than 25,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.
Subscribe Today Free...
And join more than 25,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.
Subscribe Today for Free...
And join more than 35,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.
Subscribe Today for Free...
And join more than 35,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.