Leadership is not about you, yet it’s all about you.

employee retention leadership mindset

For a long time, the veterinary profession has adhered to the leader-follower approach. It seems logical for a high stress environment where emergency situations happen. But what the leader-follower model does is put the spotlight on the leader and creates a hierarchy into two groups – leaders and followers.  

When followers follow, their initiative and creative thinking are underutilised. They can rely far too much on their leader for the smallest of decisions and this means veterinary leaders become overwhelmed, reactive instead of proactive, or find themselves firefighting instead of strategic. You risk becoming unfocused, being pulled in too many different directions, and you’ll be spending a huge amount of mental and emotional currency that could be better spent elsewhere.  

So, what’s the solution? 

There is a different way, it’s called the leader-leader model.  

There’s a great book called “Turn the Ship Around” by David Marquet that speaks directly about this.  

In my work as a coach to veterinary leaders I look at the leader-leader model from the point of view of the leader and what it requires from them. It requires adjustments to thinking and behaviours, it requires leaps of faith, because you ultimately begin shifting a lot of creative thinking, decision making, responsibility, and accountability to your team. For some people this could feel rather edgy.  

It requires you to grant certain responsibilities to your people, boost the esteem of your team, to resist the urge to break delegation, and to fight against the temptation to provide solutions (unless of course the situation demands an urgent decision from a leader in an urgent situation, in which case David Marquet’s book recommends you make the decision then later have your team evaluate it). 

Going back to the title of this post, “Leadership is not about you, yet it’s all about you” - the leader-leader model is about you serving your people. It’s all about them. But, in order to do that an incredible amount of self-awareness, deep self-reflection, and growth is required from you. It’s not about you, but it’s all about you. Team empowerment cannot happen unless you show up correctly, and this means assessing your beliefs, behaviours, habits, and thinking patterns that limit you and those around you. All leaders have blind spots, and if the very idea of the leader-leader model scares you then that’s quite revealing in itself.  

Leadership is not about you, but it’s all about you, because it starts with you. Being a leader in the veterinary profession carries huge responsibility. These days, veterinary teams have greater and clearer expectations of their leader, and it requires you to be constantly evolving and growing.  


I have been working with the veterinary profession for 9.5 years and I provide coaching to vets and nurses in leadership positions. Typically, my clients are lead vets, head nurses, clinical directors, or practice owners, managing teams of 10+ people. I am known for helping veterinary leaders to develop happy, healthy, and empowered teams, by growing themselves first. A couple of months from now I'm going to be taking a group of veterinary leaders on a profound journey of self-discovery and growth using my Leaders Grow First approach. If you're curious, send me a message, I'd love to learn more about you.



Rachael Paul
Simply Veterinary Coaching
[email protected]