The Fish Rots From The Head

“il pesce marcisce dalla testa” – The Fish Rots From The Head

The final quarter of 2018 saw me speaking throughout the UK on “Leadership and Management”. In preparation I examined the characteristics of both, the differences between them and where they overlap. This exercise meant that I had to take stock of some of the theories that I had espoused and taught over the past 20 years. 

Whilst our knowledge evolves, certain core principle stay the same and one of these comes with the snappy phrase, “The fish rots from the head”; allegedly derived from the Italian, “il pesce marcisce dalla testa”.

What this means is the leadership is the root cause of any organisation’s failure. If the culture of your business is broken, only the leadership can repair it. If the leadership doesn’t establish and maintain a healthy culture then a vacuum is created within which an unhealthy culture will grow and the rot will spread.

I see this happening in many dental businesses. Although the business was healthy at one point, change has meant that the leader has taken their eye off the ball. Often they have believed that by “delegating” work to a practice manager they don’t need to put their energy into leading. What has really happened is abdication not healthy delegation.

Every business large or small must have clear leadership from the top with clarity, guidance and adherence to core values. Without regular examination and renewal, stagnation and disease will occur. The resulting drop off in health means that changes have to be made. 

It is only the leadership that can eliminate disease, remove any necrotic tissue and then make the changes to ensure that the standards it sets are maintained in the future. Unfortunately all too often the cure and remedial treatment is more painful than was needed if business health had been maintained.

(first published in Dentistry.co.uk 22nd January 2019

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