Pharmacists as Leaders


Pharmacists can be leaders in their day-to-day activities, even if they do not have the title of department manager.

Most pharmacy schools do not teach pharmacists how to become leaders. There is a big difference between holding a leadership position in the pharmacy setting and actually being a leader.

In the past 15 years, I have found that leadership is a rare quality in our profession, mostly because we learn from other pharmacy managers who were not trained to be leaders either. While 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 he or she is leading other pharmacists or other technicians in any situation at work.

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?

The very best pharmacists I have worked with were not necessarily those who were promoted beyond staff or basic clinical positions. They were the ones who came in daily and were inspiring in how they handled the stress of the job or stress from how things were run that were out of their control.

Here are a few ideas on how to lead when you don't necessarily carry the title of manager, but you do take on the daily role of being in charge solely by default.

  • A good leader will take the time to learn out about the members of his or 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 to help?
  • Give recognition for good things. If a pharmacy technician handles an irate nurse waiting on a medication, let him or her know, "You handled that call well!" Recognition goes a long way in the middle of a chaotic work day.
  • Keep complaints about the job to yourself while working in the pharmacy. This is hard for me, and I justify this by believing that it helps with my own frustration with things that could be better at work. However, complaining kills innovation and my creativity to make things better, which ultimately leads to apathy. What is the point in changing something if 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 of complaining. Focus on the positives for the day which may be how well your team is working that particular day. Take it 1 day at a time.
  • Rather than seeking to find blame for failures in the pharmacy, seek to find solutions. If the solution is out of your hands, then let someone know who can do something about it. If you can personally implement a solution on a particular day, then do it. Take charge. Make it happen if you can.
  • 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 jobs, then 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 or 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.

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