Commitment Versus Compliance | Dental Leadership

Cathy Jameson

Leaders gain momentum from their employees when they involve them in the creation of the vision of the ideal practice – whatever that ideal is to them. This is a valuable way to develop a sense of co-ownership in the practice – one that will enhance productivity. This cooperatively developed shared vision becomes part of the life of the organization. Decisions being made, activities being performed, and hiring choices are all impacted when the vision becomes a shared benchmark. A dynamic, productive team is made up of people who can and are willing to make decisions and follow through with those decisions.

Peter Senge used the term enrolling to reflect a person’s commitment to the organization and to the purpose being served. Senge said, however, that Ninety percent of the time, what passes for commitment is compliance. Compliant followers go along with a vision. They do what is expected of them. They support the vision, to some degree. But, they are not truly enrolled or committed. (Senge, 2006)

Compliant employees may work diligently to do what is expected of them, but they do so with a lack of enthusiasm. They oftentimes find and focus on what is wrong rather than seeking and reinforcing that which is right with the company. As such, their own self-fulfilling prophecy leads to dissatisfaction. Those who are noncompliant do not support the mission, vision, or goals of the company, and therefore become saboteurs who negatively influence the organization. These people do not address their concerns in a constructive manner with the goal being reconciliation and/or problem resolution. Rather, they speak negatively behind the backs of leaders or coworkers and do grave harm to the health and well-being of others and to the organization itself. Leaders must stop this negative influence or risk degradation of the organization and loss of productivity.

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Commitment Versus Compliance | Dental Leadership 2

Employees who are compliant will do their work and strive to do it well. They usually offer support for the leaders and/or managers with whom they work, and they can be productive. However, when people are committed to the vision and to their position in the organization, they go above and beyond expectations and become viable assets to the organization. Their productivity is not only beneficial to their organization, but they benefit personally as well because of the joy and fulfillment they find in their work. This transfers to greater happiness at home and to a sense of personal satisfaction (Maslow, 1999).

A good leader encourages commitment versus compliance by being a role model of this commitment and by celebrating the successes of the organization and of the individuals within it. The vision thus becomes a part of the practical, daily functioning of the organization. It is not a lofty, inspirational phrase that is posted for everyone to see, but rather the way of life that is exemplified in all actions by all people.  A leader must learn to listen to the pros and cons that may be experienced by employees to learn better ways to serve them. There may be lessons to be learned from the employees who are prominent in a project and a good leader is open to listening to their experiences, thoughts, and ideas. John Maxwell says that a good leader “listens, learns, and then leads.”

Jameson, C. (2010). The impact of training in transformational leadership on the productivity of a dental practice. Dissertation. Minneapolis, MN: Walden University.
Maslow, A. (1999). Toward a psychology of being. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.
Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline. New York, NY: Doubleday.