Star Wars-Day 5: Leadership By Detachment

20 Dec Star Wars-Day 5: Leadership By Detachment


Learn to let go of attachments. Sometimes we hang on and hang on until we make ourselves a worried, miserable mess. Dentists love control…and not just a little control. In our ideally created dental operatory havens, we have perceived control of the entire situation…until we don’t. Every instrument is neatly arranged for us. The patient is prepped and ready for us to come in and complete ideal care. The forms are all reviewed and our world is neat and tidy, until it isn’t. Until the three year-old will not hold still. Until another emergency patient has to be seen. This causes stress. And, when we lose (perceived) control, we often lose…it.

My rudest moments with my staff members are when I have a perceived loss of control of my world. Jen Butler, one of dentistry’s leading stress management coaches, offers the following information:

Stress is all about perception…how you personally perceive it. There are three kinds of stress:

Situational–that day-to-day stress that builds up and stresses you out (as in daily schedule overloads or demands).

Physiological–harmful acts we place on our bodies (like sitting too long, not exercising, excessive drinking or

Psychological–self-imposed thoughts that create guilt of past events, worry of future events, and serves as a
deterrent for addressing current problems.


Jen offers a number of ways to combat each of these types of stress because each type requires a different approach ( For me, the situational stress resolves as I create systems within my business. In the business world, this area falls under the housing of organizational development. I took the time to get well-honed systems in place, ones that met my needs, such as the implementation of block scheduling and the training needed for scripted new patient calls.

The mind training part took more work than changing systems, because in this case, I had to change me. It did ultimately remove much of my psychological stress (although at the time I did not label it psychological stress).

How did I do this? I learned to control my mind, not other people. I am not professing to be a Master by any means, but I am much better than ever before.

In episode III, Revenge of the Sith, Yoda speaks wisely once more and says to Anakin, in training to become a Jedi, who is attached to Padme, his secret lover. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” In my case, I had grown attached to myself and to other things. I did not want to change, nor realized I needed to change. I did recognize I had a hard time keeping employees, and I did realize I would say things I later regretted. This acknowledgment fueled me to work at being a better human being, a better leader. But how would I change? And, maybe it was my staff, not me, who needed to change? Maybe I had the right to be myself? No one is perfect, right? I came up with a thousand excuses as to why I should stay exactly the same.

Learning to let go of my judgment of others and my attachment to myself, beyond what I needed for survival purposes, was and still is difficult. We are forced to make quick decisions and make judgments about others for our safety. We are encouraged to do this from an early age. So where is the boundary line between safety and self-destruction? How do we know when we are holding on too tightly, so tightly that we forget how to change or adapt? That is the million-dollar question, and that is why everyone’s training must be different.

Learning to use the force is not a one-stop, CE course. It takes time, and it takes a huge desire to be better–not necessarily just a desire to make more money.


Dr. Lisa Knowles knows how to spot leadership trouble. If you are a dentist, or know of a dentist who would benefit from leadership training, and would like a free phone consultation about leadership abilities, please set up an appointment with Dr. Knowles via email at, or call 517-331-3688.  She has been there and wants to help practices succeed. Find more information at

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