Board Certified Periodontist

77 – On Leadership

Hi there. This will be a combination podcast going out on both The Perio Hygienist and The Perio Patient Podcast, two podcasts intended for my professional colleagues as well as my patients… and anyone else who cares to listen. 

My name is Dr. Ben Young, which I feel obliged to announce for the anyone else who cares to listen group.  

The rest of you I consider friends and this episode will be one of those discussing life from the thing we all share – life itself.  

But before we get started, I’m going to do the equivalent of an advertisement. And here it is.  

Take care of yourself.  

Take care of your health.  

Keep doing the little daily things that need to be done – not to perfection – there are no bonus points for working intensely, unless you are in your passion – doing something that brings energy and meaning to your life – then, by all means, go for it. But intensity can be a problem – a symptom of the problem of perfectionism – which is believing your worth is tied up in what you do – that as long as you are doing whatever you think are good things, then you are acceptable.  

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it values people based on their abilities to perform, which is a trap, because you will never do enough to be worth what you actually are just by being you. Your worth is assigned – and it can’t be assigned by you, by your family or friends, by your boss, by your child or parent. So who can assign your value? That’s for you to decide. Just understand, you already have and if you want to change your life you might consider changing first who you want to live for, who can give to you your true value as a human being.  

But back to where I started this. Take care of yourself by doing the little daily important things that aren’t, in themselves, particularly spectacular. Like what? Well let me give you two. First keep talking with others. Second. If you have teeth and they contact each other, then floss daily to clean surfaces toothbrushes don’t reach. And see your dentist or dental hygienist before problems develop – this means keep on the recommended schedule and remember you are the appointment manager for your own care. You and I take our teeth and gums with us. No one on the dental side has the responsibility of hunting us down and making us. You are important. What you do is important and we in the dental and dental hygiene professions are here to support you.  

That’s it for my ad.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately. You might have as well as we watch the news and how things can go well or poorly, saving or costing people their lives, based on who is in charge and the decisions they make. Now, this is not a political podcast and I’m not particularly interested in convincing you to think or act one way or another politically. What I do believe is that we all need to talk and share with others, not so much to persuade, but to encourage. 

I met a young lady this week who shared with me, because she saw some diploma’s on my wall indicating my connection with the US military, that she is worried about her husband joining the military right now. She basically wanted to know my opinion about our military – and if you are listening to this podcast possibly years from now, we have just evacuated Afghanistan. Those in charge are still in charge and we are witnessing the burial of brave young soldiers who were killed by a suicide bomber at the Kabul airport, who were attempting to maintain something of order in the middle of chaos. Her concerns are valid. Can we trust the military as a path of honor and employment opportunities for young people today?  

It’s a complicated question, and all I could do was share my experiences and personal growth by being a member of the military – and that sometimes, leaders way over my head – did and certainly can make decisions that can cost lives and do things I might not agree with – and yet I had obligations to follow lawful orders, to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic – and that this situation of living in a world where my life is affected by people and powers manipulating and moving things I have no control over, is beyond even being in the military. I am responsible for being a good citizen, for paying taxes, for obeying traffic laws and all the rest as my contribution to social order.  

Another obligation of citizenship, which is also true for military members, is to know the law in order to determine what is lawful and what is not lawful. Unlawful orders are not to be obeyed, for example, but I can’t think of a context, unless I’m in some sort of social experiment, where I would be rewarded by those issuing the order I have decided to disobey. Instead, disobedience based on conscience, or obeying a higher moral law, is usually an invitation for trouble. I think of the civil rights marches in the 60’s where people were injured by police clubbing them, dogs biting them or water cannons washing them off their feet, when all they were doing was carrying signs.   

So let me share with you some of my thoughts on leadership.  

First of all, being the leader is great most of the time. Everyone follows you and you get to order people to do things. That’s the attractive and selfish side of leadership. It is also the biggest disqualifier for anyone seeking a leadership position.  

I think there are just two types of leaders – those who care about others and those who don’t.  

All leaders demonstrate in two ways which group they fit in.  

The first way to determine what type of leader you might be dealing with is to observe how they act toward others, especially those under their command or authority.  

The second way is to simply study the decisions they make.  

Their decisions either primarily benefit those under them, or they primarily benefit the leaders themselves or the ones over them, both visible and invisible. What I mean by invisible is that the lines of influence between leaders and followers are not always clear. Yes, in the military, there is a rank structure. The same for a business and possibly in how families might operate – meaning that there are possibly defined roles and responsibilities. But there are other interactions between people and groups that are invisible, sometimes the result of people simply thinking that they will lead in a particular way because it sets up unspoken obligations with others – it pleases them or it puts pressure on them. This is what a lot of international diplomacy is all about – it’s a lot of second guessing and the rest. 

So again, thinking about two different kinds of leaders. The ones who care about the worth of the individual regardless someone’s rank lead essentially from a particular set of principles or beliefs that keep them in check.  

Those who care about themselves primarily, have a different mindset. I know, and in fact hope, this is all pretty obvious. Where we have trouble with leaders is that this group can be very good at acting. They can be completely transparent and sincere, which leads to trust by those under their authority, or they can be master manipulators who can pretend to care, because it leads to better compliance, and actually be working against the people or organization they are responsible for leading well.  

To review a moment. There are two types of leaders and they have two very different ways of looking at people. They either see the individual as having high value or they see the value of people in what they can do for the “greater good” – which usually means for those in charge or at the top. In other words, to this second group, the people beneath them are dispensable – and as you may already know from earlier podcasts, there are two healthcare systems possible – which falls in line with this discussion about leadership. The first and most desirable healthcare system is one that values all life and every individual life. This is the more expensive option and requires a stable government and a good economy – and these can only come from a spiritually healthy society – one that cares for individuals over particular groups. The second system is two-tiered with the best healthcare going to the elite and minimal healthcare going to whoever the elite decide deserves it. In this second system, healthcare may be touted as a “right,” which sounds good because it implies it will be free, but it is actually a way to manipulate people to do things they would not normally agree to do – like comply and keep the minority in charge currently in charge permanently. 

The testing ground for leadership is in personal character development – in becoming a person who can operate effectively in all circumstances because circumstances do not change who they are. An effective leader must begin understanding their own strengths and weaknesses and have a clear and true sense of who they are and are not. And how do any of us understand our weaknesses? Through failure. Great leaders have a history of failure. From failures they find and refine their strengths and come through all of this with a clearer sense of reality. They know more what works and what doesn’t and they know better when they are being played.  

Leadership begins by first being a good follower of a good leader. These may be in the person’s life in childhood or they are discovered along the way.  

When they discover they are following anyone who is corrupt, they must then find the strength to break free. It’s complicated and probably unique to each one of us as to whether or not we ever become leaders of others. Another reason for breaking with corrupt leaders is that it will affect one’s own credibility which goes to whether or not they will earn the trust necessary to lead others in the servant-leader model. If they are simply seeking power, then they will stick with their corrupt mentors and potentially become worse than they ever were.  

Let me end with the idea of leadership and mask wearing.  

I understand that people fear contracting the COVID virus but there are no good studies that show that wearing masks slows the spread. What we do know it does is cause the rebreathing of viruses you might have inhaled along with other bacteria. We also know that the use of cloth masks over and over without cleaning them is a dirty business. But there is more to mask wearing than just what we are told is the reason why we should be wearing them in public. It divides people – which means we will not connect as easily with those nearby and will therefore connect more with those on our phones and computers.  

If I see a room crowded with people and I want to reduce my risk of contracting a virus, I simply will not go into that room. This would be safer by far compared with entering the crowded room wearing a mask.  

So you want to practice leadership? Learn to be in a crowd of mask wearing people without wearing a mask. What if I need to enter a private facility and the owner wants me to wear a mask? I have a crumpled one in my pocket and I will put it on to please him or her – or I will decide that entering this particular facility is not that important and go elsewhere. What I will not do is engage in a fight over masks directly. I will indirectly let you know that you are free to wear a mask or not in my office.  

I think what the focus on masks has done with regards to this particular pandemic – which I no longer believe is still a pandemic – is to cause us to forget the more important steps we can take to reduce respiratory viral transmission risks which are the following in no particular order: 

  1. Use good air filtration systems. 
  1. Limit the number of patients in the office at any one time. 
  1. Disinfect even chairs in the waiting room between office visits if the chairs – and also counter tops in these areas have been used. 
  1. Restrict the phones and work surfaces used by individuals in the office to be used just by themselves.  
  1. Have available and use hand disinfectants.  
  1. More important to the disinfectants is hand washing frequently. 
  1. Avoid touching the face, and become disciplined to touch the face after handwashing.  
  1. Take daily zinc, vitamin D3, and multivitamins. 
  1. Eat a balanced diet of healthy foods to include vegetables and fruits.  
  1. Get outside, without a mask and enjoy fresh air and sunlight.  
  1. Be grateful.  
  1. Attitude is critical. Fight fear. 
  1. Be social. 
  1. Accept illness when it comes as a part of life. We will not avoid it. 
  1. When sick, isolate and if you have to be in crowds while sick (for example, you have to go to the doctor’s office) then wear a mask.  
  1. Loves others and lead by example. 

That’s it. Thanks for listening. Bye for now.