The abundant leader

Editor’s intro: The concept of abundance defines strong, creative, and adaptive leaders who promote self-development and self-direction. Read more from Joel Small and Edwin McDonald to find out about this practice philosophy.

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin McDonald love the idea of abundance and promote this concept with their clients

stephe-convey-abundance-quote-9364925We see the concept of abundance as both a philosophy and lifestyle.

People who lead an abundant lifestyle see their universe as infinite. They demand win-win scenarios in their personal and professional lives. In their world, it is not just acceptable for everyone to succeed; it is an imperative. In our dental communities, abundant leaders do not see other doctors as competition; they consider them colleagues, and a colleague is honored and respected as a friend.

Compare this to a lifestyle of scarcity, or what some call a zero-sum philosophy, in which the universe is viewed as finite. This philosophy requires that for every winner there must be a loser. Colleagues become competitors from which we must protect ourselves. We believe that somehow they will gain an advantage by taking what is rightfully ours, never considering the possibility that there is enough for all.

The same is true in our own practices. A scarcity or zero-sum philosophy is not compatible with effective leadership because effective leaders are committed to assuring that everyone they lead is given the opportunity and resources to succeed. To an abundant and effective leader, realizing one’s dreams is a universal goal.

Scarcity-based leaders commonly believe that their role is to identify and judge others by their weaknesses rather than their strengths. This is a classic lose-lose scenario, which seldom creates a positive result for either party.

Imagine what it would be like working in an office culture based on a scarcity philosophy, an office in which recognition is coveted by the doctor and seldom shared with the members of the team. This is an office in which the doctor has an emotional need for control or an environment lacking spontaneity, creativity, or the opportunity for personal development. Recent studies have shown that burnout is most likely to occur not only when people work long hours, but also when their long hours offer no opportunity for personal development. These are offices in decline, and they will continue their downhill spiral because the burdens created by the doctor’s zero-sum attitude cannot be supported by the weakened cultural infrastructure he/she have created.

Abundance-based leaders are the antithesis of scarcity-based leaders.

Abundance-based leaders understand that everyone has weaknesses, but they choose to judge others by their strengths. Their dental practices are always more productive because they utilize individual strengths by positioning their people so they can further develop these strengths while benefiting the practice to the best of their ability. Research has proven that people who routinely utilize their most significant strengths in their daily work are among the most personally satisfied and productive team members.

We have also observed in organizational cultures that stress abundance and the development of individual strengths, there is a tendency for individual team weaknesses to spontaneously disappear. It is our belief that this unique phenomenon can occur only when failure is viewed as a learning experience and prerequisite for success, thus giving team members the ability and confidence to openly explore solutions for overcoming weakness without the fear of reprisal

Now imagine working in an environment in which the doctor attributes achievements to his/her staff and is the first to accept the blame for failures. What would it be like to work in an organization in which the leader was fully committed and engaged in assuring that all staff members reach their full potential and realize their individual dreams? This is an organization that will continually thrive.

Abundant cultures are participative as well as being creative and adaptive. They can tap into their vital stream of human potential which is a prerequisite for a highly productive and culturally mature organization. They promote self-development and self-direction. Such organizations are the icons of their industries.

Herb Kelleher, the untraditional CEO of Southwest Airlines, said this about his organization’s culture: “A financial analyst once asked me if I was afraid of losing control of our organization. I told him I’ve never had control, and I never wanted it. If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done, and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchs and control mechanisms you need.”

Is it any wonder that numerous studies have proven that organizations that create cultures based in abundance are significantly more profitable than those organizations whose culture is scarcity-based?

Editor’s call to action
The concept of abundance is about allowing team members to utilize their strengths in the workplace. Find out about other leadership essentials in another article by Joel Small and Edwin McDonald here.

Drs. Joel Small and Edwin (Mac) McDonald have a total of over 75 years of dental practice experience. Both doctors are trained and certified Executive Leadership Coaches. They have joined forces to create Line of Sight Coaching, a business dedicated to helping their fellow dentists discover a better and more enjoyable way to create and lead a highly productive clinical dental practice. Through their work, clients experience a better work/life balance, find more joy in their work, and develop a strong practice culture and brand that positively impact their bottom line. To receive their free ebook, 7 Surprising Steps to Grow Your Practice Through Leadership, go to

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