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Developing Your Leadership Skills

More than likely, you’ve been inspired by a family member, friend, classmate, teacher or public figure. There’s something about him or her that you admire. Now, think about their leadership style. Are you prepared to be in those shoes? Sometimes, the “life skills” needed to be a successful business owner, team leader and people manager are not taught in dental school. ASDA is here to help.

Leadership Training in Dental School

Leadership Training in Dental School

Great leaders are not born. They are people who take challenges head on and seek opportunities for growth. Here are a few ways to make your personal leap:

  1. Lead projects (big or small) or manage events at your chapter.
  2. Get involved with activities at your school or within your community.
  3. Go for a national ASDA position (there are more than 40 available). Each national leader receives in-person and virtual training. If you curious what previous national leaders have done before becoming a national leader, visit What's Your Leadership Path? 
  4. Consider volunteering for a larger role with your state dental association.

You can also attend ASDA’s annual National Leadership Conference. This event is open to all ASDA predoctoral and predental memebrs. It bridges the gap between the classroom and the real world by providing leadership and business training to dental students across all years. Sessions on public speaking, leading a team and working with different personality styles will help prepare you to be a well-rounded dentist.


Having a mentor during dental school is an important part of your leadership development process. Learn about finding a mentor and how to communicate with them to get the most out of your relationship.

Traits of a Good Leader

  • Has passion for the cause
  • Asks questions
  • Identifies the strengths of others to delegate
  • Effectively takes responsibility
  • Can see things from another point of view
  • Uses encouragement to motivate
  • Praises publicly, criticizes privately
Leadership development - Ben Youel

What kind of leader do you want to be?

In 1939, a group of researchers led by psychologist Kurt Lewin set out to identify different styles of leadership. As you read on, become aware of your own leadership style. What do you do well? What can you improve? How do you work with others? It is possible for several aspects of each leadership style to be part of your own.

Autocratic (also known as authoritarian leaders): 

  • Makes decisions with minimal input from team
  • Clear distinction between leader and followers
  • Can be controlling

Democratic (also known as participative leaders): 

  • Involves others in decisions to build consensus
  • Provides guidance to followers and participates in group activities
  • Motivates others

Laissez-faire (also known as delegative leaders): 

  • Gives authority to the group to make decisions
  • Participates only when guidance is requested
  • Doesn’t define team roles well or motivate others

Recommended Reads

How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

  • Fundamental techniques in handling people
  • Six ways to make people like you
  • How to change people without giving offense

The One Thing You Need to Know” by Marcus Buckingham

  • Managing and leading: what’s the difference?
  • How to be a successful individual

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink

  • Our third drive
  • Student vs. master
  • Motivation 3.0

5 Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Inattention to results

"The Leadership Challenge" by James Kouzes & Barry Posner

  • Research-based leadership strategies
  • Five practices of exemplary leadership

"Winning from Within" by Erica Ariel Fox

  • A contemporary approach to leadership and negotiation
  • Insights from Western psychology and Eastern philosophy
  • Master your "inner negotiators" to develop your highest leadership potential

"The 10 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me" by Katherine Smith Dedrick

  • The 10 most important life truths
  • Wisdom for a growing career and life

Articles in ASDA publications about leadership:

Other Resources to Help You Grow

ADA Heartland Dental Pacific Dental Services


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