President's Message - Presidential Inaugural Address - Leadership: It’s Not Just for Leaders

by Jen Phillips, PharmD, BCPS, ICHP President
November 13, 2015

As I stand here looking out over the crowd, it warms my heart to see so many people who have played such a pivotal role in my career. As a student and a pharmacy technician, I was fortunate to have great role models who taught me many things not included in my pharmacy curriculum. Well, my luck has not yet run out because to this day, I am still surrounded by many inspirational co-workers, colleagues, and students who continue to teach, mold, and shape me into the person I will be tomorrow. From some, I have learned how to manage time when there are so many things to do. From some, I have learned diplomacy. Still others have taught me how to deal with conflict, how to motivate co-workers and students, and the value of taking time to personally get to know my colleagues. And, of course, in the mix of all of the people I’ve interacted with in the past 21 years of my pharmacy career, there have also been a few people who taught me how not to act, behave, or think. Regardless, everyone I have interacted with has had something to teach me. I would like to take the time to give all of my formal and informal mentors a great big thank you! I have tried my best to emulate all of your best characteristics, but I know that I still have a long way to go on my journey towards excellence.

As I look over the crowd, I also see many students, residents, and new practitioners. I want you to know that when I was where you are now, leadership development was one of the furthest things from my mind. I had no aspirations for holding any kind of leadership position. Why? Well, mostly because I felt unqualified to be a leader. Why? Well, you see, I had this idea in my head that leaders were “born”. I would look around at the great pharmacy leaders around me, the leaders of the pharmacy organizations, even the student leaders. They all seemed to be so dynamic and so motivating and so effective. What’s more, it all seemed to come so naturally to them. “Lucky for them”, I used to think. “They are born with that special skill.”

What I have come to learn over time, however, is that great leaders are not born, they are made. No one is born a great leader (just like no one is born knowing pharmacokinetics, or pharmacy law or how to counsel a patient on an inhaler). We learn these concepts in a classroom, but it is through practice, practice, and more practice, that we are able to continuously refine them. Leadership works the same way. Sure, there may be people who are naturally good at some aspects of leadership – like organizational skills, communication skills, team-building skills, etc. However, rarely do we find someone who is naturally good at everything. Leadership, just like any other set of skills, requires some basic education followed by opportunities to hone and practice those skills.

Well, that sounds like a lot of time and work, doesn’t it? And, admittedly, I am probably not doing a very good job of selling you this idea of leadership just yet. But, the idea needs to be sold. We are still in the midst of a leadership shortage. In 2004, an ASHP survey predicted a major leadership gap – a leadership “crisis” to be more exact. A survey performed at that time revealed that there were more leaders retiring and fewer and fewer people wanting to move into leadership roles. As a result of this survey, ASHP and other professional organizations began focusing on ways to increase leadership development among their members. A number of opportunities were created to help build the leaders of the future including:  workshops, certificates, courses, and degree programs, to name a few. Colleges were urged to focus more on “soft skill” and leadership development of students. ASHP has included leadership development for residents and residency preceptors into its accreditation standards. A repeat survey conducted in 2014 revealed that while these initiatives have resulted in some progress over the last 10 years, there is still work that needs to be done to prevent a leadership gap crisis within the next 10 years.

Well, here’s what I believe:
  1. I believe that our organization, ICHP, and our members can work together to help narrow this leadership gap.
  2. I believe that once you begin to learn and refine your leadership skills, you will find them to be immensely valuable in your everyday practice, regardless of whether you move into a leadership role or not.
This brings me to my theme for this presidential year, which is “Leadership: It’s not just for leaders”. The concept involves the tenet that leadership skills are necessary for all pharmacists, not just those in leadership positions. It is based on the Big L little L philosophy introduced by Sara White several years ago during her Harvey AK Whitney Award lecture. In this lecture, she detailed seven key elements to successful and effective leadership. Most of these elements are things that most pharmacists do every day. Most of us probably agree that if we sharpened our skills in these areas, we could be even more effective.

  • Leaders must work effectively to accomplish actual results. 
    • This involves having strong time management skills so that work can get done efficiently. It also involves continuously asking the question, “How can this process be done more efficiently or more effectively?” If you find yourself doing this already, then you are exhibiting leadership skills and I encourage you to continue doing this. If you have not, then I challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and start doing this. You are the expert of your daily responsibilities and your insights and recommendations – especially if communicated in an effective manner – are extremely valuable and necessary to make effective change.
  • Leaders must persevere and persist.
    • Not all days are good days. I challenge you to take the time to remember why we chose this profession to begin with. This may help redefine your purpose and make the extra effort worth it. Changing your perspective to see challenges as opportunities can help you get through some of those difficult days.
  • Leaders must influence through attitude and approach.
    • This applies not only to the students, residents, and new practitioners that we train, but also to the colleagues that we work with on a day to day basis. People believe what they see much more than what they hear. I challenge you to try to be a positive role model for others and treat others with compassion and respect and remember that everyone has something to teach you.
  • Leaders must work well with others.
    • While this is not always easy, it is essential to a team-based environment. Developing skills in and improving our ability to manage emotions effectively can help us be successful in this arena.
  • Leaders must lead oneself so that people want to work with them.
    • I challenge you to lead by your example. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in this world.”
  • Leaders must invest in their own future.
    • Ensuring professional competence is necessary for all of us. One way to do this is to have a continuing professional development portfolio. Other options include advanced certification, advanced degrees, workshops, and many others. What’s important is to identify the areas where you need additional development and work towards self-amelioration.
  • Leaders must have a written vision/mission statement.
    • While this is especially important for those in an official leadership capacity, it is also a great idea to have a personal vision/mission statement. The act of documenting your goals, ambitions, and plans is helpful in ensuring you stay on progress.
After hearing these seven attributes, I ask all of you – are you or can you be a leader? If you’ve answered “yes”, then you are well on the road to helping to shape our profession. If you’ve answered “no”, then I ask you to let ICHP know what we can do to get you there.

If you are looking for more opportunities to refine, build, or practice, your leadership skills, then ICHP has many opportunities available to you. ICHP provided the pathway I needed to help refine my leadership skills, and I want those same opportunities to be available to everyone else, including those interested in Big L positions and those who just want to be the best practitioner they can be. Leadership is not just for leaders and developing leadership skills is valuable for both types of individuals.

It is my hope that we can inspire more individuals within this organization to, at the very least, aim to increase their leadership skills to help them be more effective in their everyday practice. It is also my hope that we can inspire some to pursue Big L leadership positions – at their practice site or within ICHP.  I look around this room, and I see so much talent and I want to use it to help achieve our mission and goals and to help advance our profession.

To help roll out this theme, I am working with the Director of Educational Affairs to try to have leadership development programming at upcoming meetings that focuses on development of these types of skills. ICHP also has many opportunities available to you to start practicing your leadership skills, including serving on a committee or a division, leading a division or a subcommittee, serving as mentors for pharmacy students, or running for a position on the Board of Directors. I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. Others have so much to teach you, and you will be glad that you did.

I would like to end with a quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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