Cultivate Leaders within the Veterinary Team

September 3, 2018

You may be thinking, “How do I cultivate leaders within the veterinary team?” Super question!

It is one question I hear often. Great leaders are born every day and others can learn how to become great leaders. You and your team can develop these characteristics. The following are a few tips to help grow your leadership team from within your current ranks.

First, ask your team what qualities they feel make a great leader.

I feel leaders actively listen to others with intent and empathy. Each one demonstrates self-control and self-awareness. They focus on achieving goals, personally and collectively. Now, we can expand on those traits and identify resources for your team members to be leaders.

Actively Listen

I vividly recall the first time Ralph Johnson (at the time, Executive Director of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association) and I met for a one-on-one meeting. I gathered my pen and paper and walked to his office. I knocked on the door jam, he acknowledged me, then gracefully closed all the open files on his desk and turned off the screen on his computer. Then he invited me to sit across from him at his desk.

Our conversation lasted about 20 minutes and during that time I had his undivided attention. I felt heard and was immersed fully in the conversation. Obviously, the meeting left a HUGE IMPRESSION as I still refer to the experience all these many years later!

What I experienced in that moment was active listening in its purest form. Ralph removed all the distractions and focused on the conversation at hand. Wow! What an awesome feeling!

I am sure Ralph also practiced mirroring my words (although I wasn’t aware of the technique at the time). He did take notes, which I feel is another respectful, efficient way to actively listen.

To truly engage in a meaningful conversation, consider decreasing the distractions, focus exclusively on the discussion, mirror the other person (What I heard you say is…), and take notes (if appropriate). To listen to someone, wholeheartedly, is an incredible gift and an act of leadership.

Learn more about Active Listening. 


“Know Thyself!” Far easier said than done. “The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge,” claimed the Greek philosopher, Plato.

In my experience, and from conversations with others, it appears personal growth and awareness mostly occur during times of turmoil and discomfort. Rarely does someone say, “Hey, all is hunky-dory in my life. I think I will take this time for self-exploration and awareness building.”

Understanding emotions, reactions, and how we impact others leads to self-awareness, also known as emotional intelligence.

You may recognize people who are leaders as they demonstrate self-control, are grounded, and understand that perfection is an illusion. In their presence, you sense their calm and acceptance as they have truly become self-aware. Every individual has a life-time of opportunities to become self-aware.

Learn more about Self-Awareness.

Achieve Goals

Consider the people you deem leaders in your life. Would you label them as “bumps on a log?” I imagine not. Leaders are DOERS and their list of accomplishments is quite long and impressive.

They are motivated by “moving the needle” and making a difference in their community (small or large). Your team members who have a natural tendency towards leadership, or want to cultivate the traits of a leader, can begin NOW to set a focus and achieve their goals (personally or collectively).

As an example, a team member may realize the benefits of engaging in their local, state, or national veterinary organizations. FANTASTIC! They may declare their interest in attending meetings, sitting on a committee, or being a board member. SUPER! Identifying a mentor may be a first step. Simply attending an upcoming meeting may open doors. Engaging with others at social events, during online chats, or “stepping out” during conventions may lead to the next steps in leadership.

I believe in and know the benefits of being an engaged member in organized veterinary medicine. The skills enhanced as you grow as a leader in organized medicine transcend to leadership within veterinary hospitals. Once team members actively interact with other leaders, they are achieving their goal in participation, ultimately levying them to a leadership role in their veterinary hospital. A win/win situation!

Learn more about Achieving Goals

As a growing leader within your veterinary hospital, in your group of friends or organizations, each day you can practice active listening, become more self-aware, obtain your goals, and inspire by simply leading by example. Utilize these tips and continue to grow leaders from within your veterinary team. Offer tools for success in resources, mentoring, and leading by example.

Rebecca Rose, CVT, President of CATALYST Veterinary Practice Consultants

Yours in Leadership,

Rebecca Rose, CVT