Leadership: Good Training Programs Ensure Smooth Succession

Pharmacy TimesApril 2015 Respiratory Health
Volume 81
Issue 4

Few pharmacies create succession plans to fortify their organizations, plans that outline training for qualified staff to assume leadership responsibilities.

Many pharmacies are flabbergasted when their leaders depart for better opportunities, different practices, or retirement. Consider this: jobsearching pharmacists are 4 times more likely to find a pharmacy management position than a staff position, and 70% to 80% of leaders plan to retire in the next 10 years.1 Few pharmacies, however, create succession plans to fortify their organizations, plans that outline training for qualified staff to assume leadership responsibilities.

Start at the Beginning

A plan to train candidates for leadership roles should reflect each organization’s needs. Leaders should create training plans using detailed position descriptions. Leaders also need to list the skills they consider helpful and those they do not want. Many business authorities indicate leaders need 4 skill sets: self-awareness, interpersonal, systemic thinking, and strategic planning.2

Pharmacists and technicians may have good basic skill sets in one or two areas, but few inexperienced managers have complete, refined skill sets from the get-go. Also, many pharmacy employees have the potential to be good managers, but see only the headaches associated with management. These candidates need encouragement to assume leadership roles and will require training to strengthen their partial skills and to develop new ones. Therefore, leaders should mentor potential internal candidates who perform well in times of change, possess strategic thinking, and are flexible, empathic, and caring. In pharmacy, leaders need specific technical skills, but they also need people skills. Leadership styles vary, and candidates can learn from all types of leaders. The Table3 describes transferrable, valuable leadership qualities.

The “What If?”

Pharmacy leadership needs to envision how it will handle the departure of various managers, perhaps starting with lower level, front-line positions and progressing to top leadership posts. When managers write detailed steps for transition, they can become aware of potential planning gaps.

From New Hire to Leader

The following maxims can help managers foster growth:

  • Ask all direct-reports to propose 2 solutions when they ask for management guidance. This helps employees develop thinking skills and keeps managers abreast of what employees think is important.
  • When employees ask for a decision and the manager’s first thought is, “It doesn’t matter,” let the employee(s) decide.
  • Emulate leaders who inspire you, and teach employees to do the same.
  • Embrace diversity, allowing everyone to express opinions.
  • Acknowledge outstanding ideas, and learn from employees.
  • Make “un-pharmacy” education (education in topics like accounting, personnel management, and interpersonal skills) a priority. Clinical education is critical, but not at the expense of workplace skills.
  • Whenever possible, invite employees into the management process.


Leaders influence, guide, coach, and achieve. They help fellow team members to realize their vision and to expand their knowledge. Above all, they want to ensure that patients, customers, consumers, and end users realize, “This is the place I receive the best pharmacy care.” Pharmacy has a leadership void. Let’s fill it.

Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy.


  • Mark SM. Things I wish I had known before becoming a pharmacy leader. Hosp Pharm. 2013;48:68-76.
  • Snyder G. Four basic skills of leadership. geoffsnyder.com website. http://geoffsnyder.com/four-basic-skills-of-leadership/. Accessed February 10, 2015.
  • Gibson M, Weber RJ. Applying leadership qualities of great people to your department: Sir Winston Churchill. Hosp Pharm. 2015;50:78-83.

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