Youth research

Courage: the most important virtue of a leader

Think about how difficult the last two years have been and the courage we had to muster because of these challenges. We had to deal with difficulties related to personal health, finances, work and family. We faced fires, storms and floods. We faced a global pandemic, an attack on our capital and a continuous attack on Ukraine. All of these things have affected us in one way or another. These years were the most difficult for many of us. But, think about it…we are still on our feet, healing, reassessing, rebuilding our lives and helping each other because we had the courage.

We need courage and leadership to succeed and meet these challenges in our lives.

What is courage?

We know that every day is a gift and we should strive to live our best life. This in itself is a responsibility that requires courage and leadership.

No matter what you do or who you are, you are a leader. Your title doesn’t matter.

As dental professionals, we went to work. We did this because we felt a strong responsibility to safely care for our patients, our teams and our doctors. That didn’t mean we weren’t scared. It meant that we had courage.


“Courage is the most important of all virtues because without courage you cannot practice any other virtue consistently.” – Maya Angelou


I started thinking about virtues that might require courage and how all of these virtues apply to being leaders in our dental practices. For example, honesty, respect, integrity, resilience, accountability, and loyalty, as well as compassion, self-control and forgiveness. I haven’t forgotten the importance of gratitude. So many others come to mind. All these virtues make us who we are: our character, our attitude, our fundamental values. Here are some examples of how we as leaders demonstrate courage.

Honesty. It’s at the top of my list, and I’m pretty sure yours is too. We expect it from our patients, our teams and our doctors. If we know the truth, whatever it is, we’ll find a way to deal with it. It takes courage. As leaders, we need to be honest with ourselves. If we want the respect and loyalty of our teams and our patients, we must not be afraid to let them know that we are not perfect. No one is. We can all learn from our mistakes and become better leaders.

Respect. Smile, say hello, and of course don’t forget to say thank you. Let your team members and patients know that you care and appreciate them. Respect within a team must be reciprocal. I can think of a few instances in my years of running our dental practice where I have overheard a member of our team say something disrespectful to another member of the team. This was sorted out immediately and in some cases they were fired on the spot. I believe that by acting quickly, the importance of loyalty is reinforced. There are also times in our practices when we have to dismiss a patient – ​​respect has to go both ways. If we believe we have integrity, we must do the right thing, no matter the cost. When we see something happen and it’s wrong, we get up and do the right thing. It takes courage.

Compassion. When we let team members know that we truly care about them as humans, it builds respect, trust, honesty, and loyalty. They are not afraid to come to us for help. I think it’s just as important that as leaders we show our human side. By that I mean we have to be open enough and allow the team we trust to be there for us as well. As humans, we are here to support and uplift each other. This creates a happier, stronger and more cohesive team. However, there are times that require us to have difficult conversations. Having compassion doesn’t mean we don’t expect accountability; it means we really listen, think, analyze and strive to understand. So speak. It takes courage.

Self control. We need to practice ways to deal with our stress, whether it’s just been overwhelmed, exhausted, fearful, or frustrated. We have to hold ourselves accountable. In the face of difficult situations, stop, breathe, think. Don’t react. This will allow us to think clearly and gather the facts, so that we can carefully assess a situation before acting too quickly or harshly. It takes practice, patience and self-control. Of course, there will be days when even the most patient of us will be frustrated and even angry. We have to forgive ourselves and move on in order to be able to lead. It will help us to handle these difficult times with grace, thoughtfulness, respect and self-control. It takes courage.


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Gratitude. I feel so grateful for those who have supported us over the past two years when there was so much fear and uncertainty. It gave us hope for our profession. Our team felt more like family than at any other time. It’s easy to show gratitude to a team that truly cares about patients, others, and the health of the practice. This does not happen by chance, however. As a practice leader, if we want to have a team that we are truly grateful for, we have to let them know how much we appreciate them. We need to provide an environment where they feel safe, respected and cared for. Pay a fair wage and let them know they matter. Thank them for a job well done. Notice the good things they do, and overlook the little things that weren’t “just right.” Nobody is perfect. It takes courage.

Resilience. I have seen the resilience of so many dental professionals who have come together and supported each other. Members of our team who have not raced in the face of the unknown. Those who have stayed with us to face unimaginable challenges head-on. It takes courage.

We were never alone, because we had our dental community. Together, we not only recovered, but grew closer and stronger. Personally, I am very grateful to the leadership of AADOM and the people I call my AADOM tribe. We were all brave!