Pharmacists as Leaders


Pharmacists do not learn how to be a leader in most pharmacy schools. There is a big difference between holding a leadership position in the pharmacy setting and actually being a leader. In the past fifteen years I have found that leadership is a rare quality to find in our profession mostly because we learn from other pharmacy leaders who were not trained to be leaders either. And while immediately you may think I am referring to operational directors or directors in general, I am talking about any pharmacist who works in a setting where they are leading other pharmacists or other technicians in any situation at work which covers most aspects of being an actual pharmacist.

John Maxwell says "The true measure of leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less." A good leader will inspire and influence others in profound ways to do a good job. Can a staff pharmacist do this? Absolutely. 

In the midst of phones ringing and nurses asking for medications, there are opportunities to do more than just the bare minimum. How can you improve your existing conditions? How can you make the operational flow better? Are there ways to inspire those around you with positive leadership to actually WANT to do a good job? It doesn't matter what position I think of in the past, I can still find issues with every single arrangement whether it was poor leadership, lack of teamwork among the team and/or apathy. The very best pharmacists I have worked with were not necessarily the ones that were promoted beyond staff or basic clinical positions, they were the ones that came in daily and were inspiring in how they handled stress of the job itself or stress from how things were run that were out of their control. 

Here are a few ideas in how to be a leader when you don't necessarily carry the title of manager but carry the daily role of being in charge solely by default (since most managers carry an 8am-5pm job and meetings that keep them away from where the job is happening - in the pharmacy).

1. A good leader will take time to find out about members of his/her team. What are each member's strengths and weaknesses? If you have a problem-solver on your team for the day, why wouldn't you utilize that talent to solve daily problems? If another has a weakness, why wouldn't you figure out a way to either help with the weakness or find another who is strong in that area?

2. Give recognition for good things. If a pharmacy technician handles an irate nurse waiting on medication well, let him/her know. "You handled that call well!"

3. Keep complaints about the job to yourself while working in the pharmacy. This one is a very hard one for me, and I justify this by believing it helps with my own frustration with things that could be better at work. However, complaining kills innovation and my own creativity to make things better which ultimately leads to apathy. What is the point in changing something, it won't work, right? Rather than complaining to each other in the pharmacy, take the complaints to someone who can do something about it. After that, there is really nothing else you can do but don't fall into the negative habit.

4. Rather than seeking to find blame for failures in the pharmacy, seek to find solutions. If the solution is out of your hands, let someone know who can do something about it. If you can personally implement a solution on a particular day, then DO it.

5. It is not a mistake to be friends with your peers even though most leaders mistake this as a flaw. As long as you hold your team accountable to what is expected of their individual job (which should be addressed in the job description), there should be no problem with having a friendship. It would be a lonely existence to show up at work daily thinking that the goal is to make peers believe you are above them. I have much more respect for the leader that holds his/her team accountable while still being warm enough to care. We spend too much time at work to NOT have some sort of relationship beyond making people believe we are only there to climb a ladder and step on each other along the way.

Another Sunday Night...

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