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It's never too early to start developing leadership skills in your veterinary team

Posted in Management @ Mar 26th 2018 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
Im Too Young To Be A Leader

Updated March 2018

"I'm too young to be a leader in my veterinary practice - I wouldn't know where to start!"

The fact is whether you're a vet nurse or a veterinarian, as you become more experienced, younger team members – both nurses and vets - will start to look to you for guidance.  You may not have a ‘title’ that infers authority but sometimes just being recognised for being good at what you do gives you authority amongst your team members.

You may also have no interest in a leadership role at the moment but you never know what the future holds.  You may have the opportunity to further your career by taking on a role as a nurse manager or practice manager.  You may even decide to own your own practice one day!

Whatever the future holds it’s never too early to start developing leadership skills – no matter what your current role.

If you’re not sure where to begin why not start by recognising when a team member does a good job?  Taking the time to notice when someone has done something well and commenting is great for building a strong team.  Praise doesn’t just have to come from the boss, sometimes it can mean even more when a peer or co-worker comments on what a great job you’ve done.

So what are some other qualities that make a great leader?

Googling ‘Leadership skills’ returns over 132 million results!  There is an almost limitless list of skills and abilities that come under this category, here are just some of them:   


Ability to delegate


Sense of humour



Positive attitude



Ability to inspire






Strength of character





Continuous improvement


Now I don’t know about you, but many of the vet nurses and vets I know could tick many of these boxes already.  So that leads me to believe that many of the vet nurses and vets I know already have the skills to be good leaders.  What about you?

How can you develop your leadership skills?


The first step is an easy one – look around you. Is there someone in your workplace or your life that has leadership skills you admire?  Remember they may not necessarily have an official title, but those around them may just naturally look to them for direction.  Watch what they do and how they get people to work together.  Find out if they attended any courses or training.


Read as much as you can get your hands on. The newspaper, journals, online newsletters, anything about people – it doesn’t just have to be about leadership. The more you learn about people and what motivates them, their behaviours and general psychology, the more you’ll understand the best way to lead them.


Take the time to network with those in your industry as well as those that work in other industries. You would be surprised at how many similarities there are between different industries!


You are your best asset and you should be investing in your future by continuing to learn. Even if your wage rate isn't the highest you should still be investing some money in developing yourself.  Consider attending conferences, workshops, seminars, courses or webinars – there are some excellent options available that don’t cost a huge amount. 

If it hasn’t already been offered to you, why not consider asking your boss to help fund some further study.  After all, the business will benefit from the new skills you bring to your job.

You can keep up to date with all the training on offer by keeping your eye on Vetanswers' online 'What's on? Veterinary CPD Calendar' .

Never stop learning

Even the most accomplished leaders never stop learning.  They never stop reading, developing and growing.

So what about you?  How many of the qualities above do you already have?  Perhaps you’re already well on the way to becoming a good leader without realising it. Maybe all it takes is a bit more confidence and self-awareness to realise that you’re never too young (or too old!) to lead and you certainly don’t need a title to start doing it – so why not start tomorrow?  

What skills do you believe are essential for good leaders?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


lisa blair @ May 4th 2015 1:41pm
Hey Judy, well you've certainly touched one of my hot buttons....Leadership is shown every day by everybody...there are a few misconceptions a) leadership has to be heroic it doesn't....leadership is doing little things consistently that drive performance and improve others b) Leadership is doesn't have to be. I've followed a leader who was nasty. I've watched a leader who was clueless. The problem is that people think when they do "good" stuff they are leading and when they do ordinary/detrimental stuff everyone will just look the other way. Nah uh. Leadership is 24/7/365. Make mistakes, but realise others are watching them so make good and move on. c) Everyone in the workplace has an area of expertise and are leaders in their field. New graduates have current learning, kennel people understand stressful environments and animal handling, owners see big getting each individual to own their own level of experience and expertise and expecting leadership in that area you create a culture of continual growth and ongoing excellence..... At least that's (a bit) of what I think. Also leaders occasionally rant. i must have seen it somewhere to be modelling it! Thanks for the article, Lisa
Judy @ May 5th 2015 1:20pm
Thanks Lisa - I do enjoy touching hot buttons! (Although that sounds a bit odd now I've typed it!) You've made some interesting points about Leadership and I agree it's a very fluid definition although I'm not sure I'd agree with your view that leaders can be clueless or nasty. Maybe managers can be nasty but I think a true leader has no need to be. They may be straight talking, blunt, possibly autocratic or even dictatorial if the situation requires but a true leader never needs to be nasty. I do like your point that everyone can be a leader in their own area of expertise - I think that's a very empowering concept in any workplace and one that should be recognised & promoted more often. Judy

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