For many of you the phrase being a leader brings up visions of local, state or national organizations; being on committees; traveling or even the ultimate terror, public speaking! All through pharmacy school you were probably told the benefits and rewards of membership and service to the various professional organizations. As important as these activities are, being a leader in everyday situations is paramount. Starting salaries for retail pharmacists may vary but $120,000 is probably close to the national average salary. When asked why an employer would pay so much, graduating pharmacy students’ most common response was “because we have a license.” When employers were asked what they expected for $120,000 they replied “Leadership!”
Jim Collins undertook a five-year research project to determine why some companies evolve from good to truly great.1 The sine qua non of an outstanding company is what Collins refers to as a “Level 5” leader. The Level 5 leader is at the top of a hierarchy of capabilities. A “Level 1” leader is someone who can make productive contributions through their talent, skills and knowledge. In the middle would be a “Level 3” leader that can organize people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives.
There seems to be a disconnect in how fourth-year pharmacy students view their leadership capabilities and value compared to what employers are wanting. Many graduating pharmacy students consider themselves as Level 1 leaders but demand a salary of $120,000. Employers want and expect Level 3 leaders as starting pharmacists! New graduate pharmacists may be responsible for recruiting, interviewing, selecting, and hiring the appropriate employees which are essential to the success of the pharmacy. The buck stops with the pharmacist in addressing conflicts involving health care providers, patients, management, regulatory agencies, third party insurance, and co-workers. Graduates may simply want to be clinicians but pharmacy is a business as well as a profession which requires that goals and financial objective be achieved. Hopefully, some of these leadership skills and experiences were obtained in pharmacy school through active participation in pharmacy organizations and other leadership opportunities. Mistakes in pharmacy school have minor consequences but as a pharmacist, failure as a leader can be disastrous.
Even at the beginning of their formal education medical students know that as future physicians they will be required to be a leader in health care situations. Early on medical students prepare themselves for this challenge. Most, if not all schools and colleges of pharmacy have courses in management and pharmacy administration. The duties and responsibilities of a pharmacist are being taught and it is clear that leadership is required to fulfill these obligations. Why is it that many pharmacists do not feel comfortable being a leader in health care?
1. Collins J. Level 5 Leadership–The triumph of humility and fierce resolve. Harvard Business Review. January 2001;66-76.