This post was authored for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Pharmacy Business Network.
What comes to mind when you think about leadership? A risk taker, a role model, a sound manager, an innovator, a trail blazer? Perhaps a combination of some of those attributes.
To search the web on the subject you can quickly drown in information and videos on the shopping list of qualities that make a great leader, but a list doesn’t make for change, nor convert you into an exceptional leader in a flash.
To know that a leader needs to be a visionary, inclusive, trustworthy, communicative, emotionally aware is all fine and well, but one aspect that is often overlooked in this well-intentioned advice is the context of where this leadership is to be exercised.
The qualities of a leader in one profession may not be appropriate in another. For example, what the military looks for (and they spend more time, money and effort than anyone on the subject) and cultivate may not be what a small business needs, no matter how admirable those standards may be. A TED talk may be very inspirational, but not everyone needs to be the next Steve Jobs or similar.
In the Pharmacy setting the qualities of leadership can be applied in several ways: as a staff manager, a clinician, as a business person, in the community, and involvement in the professional generally. So for each ‘leadership mode’, different qualities may be required or perhaps ‘dialled-down’ so their intensity is lessened and more appropriate for the team member or situation.
But one thing that is constant in the application of leadership is self-awareness and a commitment to ourselves to learn, improve, self-reflect. Just like any professional skills, being a leader is something that has been cultivated, learnt, and practiced. A job title doesn’t make us a leader, and in different moments staff members can shine as it allows their own leadership qualities to express themselves.
If we want to be an effective leader, then we need to seek out those opportunities and stretch ourselves and reflect on the experience. If you’re in a role that can delegate authority, then perhaps part of that role is to create the space for your team members to test their own leadership skills.
We all bring a range of strengths and areas of lesser ability, and different modes or situations can help those to come to the fore. To the old question of whether leaders are born or made, I would say they are made, and we each have the capacity to be leaders in different ways and circumstances.
In the Pharmacy profession a commitment to leadership isn’t just about trying to stand out from the back or being the boss, it is part of the ongoing work of being the finest professional we can be.