Leadership in Audiology ……..It’s The Same Everywhere…Part 1

This next couple of weeks at Hearing International will be dedicated to leadership around the world.  Whatever your language, culture, or location in the world, leadership requires the same skills and qualities.  One of our international colleagues lost to us recently was Dr. Sadanand Singh, a true leader in our field in so many ways. This article was submitted by Dr. Robert Glaser as a tribute to Dr. Singh on what it takes to be a leader.


Sadanand Singh, Ph.D.

Beyond his favorite proverb below, nothing can be said about this brilliant star of a man who has helped so very many in so many ways.  And through the strife and turmoil that visited his life, his bright light shined through to the happiness he created for his beloved Angie and all his children, friends and colleagues around the world:

He does not live in vain who employs his wealth, his thought and his
speech to advance the good of others.  
Ancient Hindu proverb

There are as many definitions of  leadership as there are leaders.  In a simple amalgamation, leadership can be defined as a process set into motion by an individual leader or a team of people to create a meaningful collaboration of focused thinking resulting in action(s) for a common purpose.  To be sure, agreeing on a definition helps to focus on the topic; however, it is the varied critical elements, the components that create the opportunities for leadership to work its particular magic. Unquestionably, leadership skills permeate all that we do as clinicians.

Patients rely on our professional skills as audiologists for the leadership needed to appropriately manage their hearing loss.  Leadership skills are equally important in both matching their auditory needs with advanced technologies and managing the critical counseling interface with their family members and significant others in their lives. It is true that some people are born with greater natural gifts than others;
the ability to lead is really a collection of many skills nearly all of which can be learned and honed to an effective edge.

Leadership is complicated and the process of developing these skills does not evolve overnight.  Leadership has many, distinct characteristics: competence, commitment, positive attitude, emotional strength, vision, focus, discipline, relationship building, responsibility, initiative, people skills—the list goes on.  Many of these intermingled factors are intangible and that is why leaders require so much
seasoning to be effective in the venues of their influence.



Talent is never enough.  The fact is that no person reaches his or her potential unless they are willing to practice their way there.  Preparation positions talent and practice sharpens it.  Practice enables development in the clinical domain.  Clinicians get better and better at what they do when they have opportunities to see more patients.

That is true but there must be an important proviso:  practice creates a better clinician as long as there is a guide, a mentor, a coach straightening the wrinkles and providing
feedback on the functional characteristics of their interactions with patients and their families.

Change is never easy but seemingly always essential to success.  Guided change is essential to improving
clinical skills and, in the long haul, improving patient outcomes. The difficult changes must be done in concert with direction and feedback from another source skilled at evaluation and promotion of better tactical use of whatever talent you bring to the mix.  Max DePree, a pre-eminent leadership expert, recognized that people, in general and no matter the situation,are resistant to change:   “We cannot become what we need to be remaining what we are.”  His directives were clear—to sharpen your talent through guided practice, you need to do more than just be open to change, you have to pursue change.



A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him……

David Brinkley, Television Journalist


Every profession enjoys a cadre of successful people whether it is in the research segment or in academia and teaching students or creating opportunities in varied venues where we practice.  There will always be those who accelerate the profession by example.  Of the individuals who have achieved lasting success in our profession, there seems to be a singular thread—their positive outlook on life and their profession.  Each has overcome difficulties in some fashion yet each has excelled despite the “bricks others have thrown” in the course of their path to contribution.  Maxwell (1999) makes two cogent points about attitude:  “Your attitude is your choice” and “Your attitude determines your actions.”   No matter what happened yesterday, your attitude is your choice today.  Attitude becomes the decisive factor for success because it determines how you act.


Competence can be defined in a word as “capability” or “expertise.”  Competence goes beyond words:  It is the leader’s ability to say it, plan it and do it in such a way that others know that you know how—and know that they want to follow you (Maxwell, 2007).  Leaders are admired for both inherent competence as well as perceived capabilities.  There are several key elements that must be a part of a leader’s armament for success.  They are simple elements, easy to accomplish on a consistent basis:

  • Show Up Every Day

Responsible people show up when they are expected:  Highly competent people come ready to play every day—no matter how they feel, what kind of circumstances they are facing in their personal or professional life, nor how difficult they expect the game to be.

  • Keep Improving

Highly competent people are constantly engaged in learning, growing and improving.  They do that by asking why.  After all, the person who knows how will always have a job, but the person who knows why will always be the boss.

  • Follow Through with Excellence

Performing at a high level of excellence is a choice, an act of will.  As leaders, we expect our people to follow through when we hand them the ball.  They expect that and a whole lot more from us as their leaders.

  • Accomplish More than Expected

Highly competent people always go the extra mile.  For them good enough is never good enough; they need to do the job, and then some, day in and day out.

  • Inspire Others

Motivating others to perform at high levels is a skill that does not develop overnight nor can it be taught in a classroom.  It is a talent commonly learned by watching effective leaders succeed.  Excellent leadership has no stops and starts, no clear edges, nothing but smooth transition from concept and plan to effective action completing a well defined goal.

Guest Author:

Robert G. Glaser, Ph.D. – This and next week’s article was prepared and submitted to Hearing International.  Dr. Glaser knows leadership on a personal level having been the President of the American Academy of Audiology, 1999-2000 and CEO of Audiology Speech Associates of Dayton, Inc, Dayton, Ohio for over 30 years.  He has served on licensure and hospital boards representing Audiology and is a well known leader in our profession.  He is also the Co-Author of Strategic Practice Management, a textbook in Audiology practice management.


DePree, M. (1989 & 2004). Leadership Is an Art.  New York:  Random House.

DePree, M. (1992 & 2008) Leadership Jazz: The Essential Elements of a Great Leader. New   York:  Random House.

Glaser, R.G. and Traynor, R.M. (2008) Strategic Practice Management.  San Diego:  Plural Publishing.

Glaser, R.G. (2011) “If Not You, Then Who.”  Keynote Presentation: Ohio Academy of Audiology Fifth    Biennial Audiology Conference.  Columbus, Ohio.

Maxwell, J.C. (2002) Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know. Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publications.

Maxwell, J.C. (2007) Talent Is Never Enough.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publications.

Maxwell, J.C. (1998 & 2007)  The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publications.

American Academy of Audiology, (2010).  In memoriam:  Dr. Sadanand Singh.  Retrieved October 24, 2011:  http://www.audiology.org/news/Pages/20100302.aspx

Traynor, R.M and Glaser, R.G (2010) “Positive Emergence:  Optimization Strategies for a
Difficult Economy.  American Academy of Audiology Annual Meeting:  San Diego.

About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.