With our Phi Lambda Sigma chapter hosting its 2018 induction ceremony this past week, I have been doing a lot of thinking about leadership. Specifically what makes a good leader and why leadership is such an important quality to have no matter what field you are in. Now I want to make something very clear, I am not an “expert on leadership” nor am I trying to be. In fact if you told me even in my P1 year that I would be the Vice President of a Leadership Society I would have laughed in your face. My point is that everyone is capable of leadership no matter what you may believe right now, you all have it in you. Even if you are a sometimes shy and laid back person, like myself. I want to inspire you guys to go out of your comfort zones and see what is possible.
So first how can you improve and grow your leadership qualities? What I have found the most helpful to grow as a leader is to get more involved. This could be getting involved in organizations on campus or off campus or even getting more involved at work. A lot of the time the more you put yourself out there, the more natural opportunities you have to step up and be a leader. The more you are able to step up as a leader in these little ways, the more confidence you will gain in your leadership abilities. For example; one of the first ways I got involved was with my colleges ACCP (American College of Clinical Pharmacy) chapter. I ran for a position on the executive board and always volunteered for events and the more I was a part of them, the more I believed I could run my own event. I found a passion for getting involved and kept the ball rolling from there. It’s all about gaining experience and confidence to then be able to step out of your comfort zone and be a leader in a way you never thought possible.
Getting involved with PLS has been an amazing opportunity for me. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by such inspiring people who do amazing work. It is important to surround yourself with people who have the same goals and mindset as you do. It is also important to put yourself in situations that will push you to continue to grow. Public speaking has never been something I am good at, it almost always results in a mini panic attack. I avoid it like the plague, literally even in high school I remember a teacher telling our class that if we didn’t want to present we could just drop a letter grade and I was like yes sign me up for that B! I know that this is obviously something I need to work on with rotations coming up and also realizing my career goals, but it is a lot easier said then done. This past week at induction I had to give the first speech of the evening and talk throughout other parts of the ceremony. Needless to say I was terrified, but my girls had my back and honestly looking back I feel so much better about public speaking right now. Like anything else it takes practice and a willingness to grow. I know I keep mentioning PLS, this is just the organization that I have the most experience with currently, but it took a lot of growing as a leader before I got here. Also another extremely important point is that not being in some leadership society does NOT mean you are not a great leader. I know so many classmates who are amazing leaders and influential people and they are not in PLS or don’t want to be. To each his/her own. No one should try and follow a path that doesn’t work for them. The most important thing to do is stay true to yourself and what you are most passionate about, because that is when your natural leadership abilities come out the most.
When I think of leadership, what it means to me and the qualities that are most important, these are some of the things I think about…
Inspiring others – Leadership should not be selfish, it is not about how good your position looks to others or that you can put it on your CV. Leadership should be about inspiring and uplifting others. Helping others who are less fortunate than you through charity and volunteering. This one is huge to me being in healthcare. I love helping others who are dealing with chronic health conditions or those who are sick. It is also important to inspire those around you to grow themselves as leaders. Lead by example and help show them what they can accomplish themselves through hard work dedication.
Be both a leader and a team player – Being a leader doesn’t mean you always have to be in charge or right all the time. Sometimes in certain circumstances you are going to have too many “cooks in the kitchen”, if someone has a good idea or good vision it’s okay to step down and let them roll with it. If someone on your team is truly passionate on a particular topic and wants to take the lead on that piece, then let them! I have been on teams where we are brainstorming ideas and there is that one person who just won’t let their idea go even when it’s not the best one. A team with this type of mentality can get stuck very quickly and not accomplish anything. It is important to have the ability to know when to step up and when to step down.
Delegate the right way – An effective leader doesn’t do everything themselves, but this doesn’t mean barking orders at people. They empower their team to do their best work together. Knowing what skills each person on your team possesses or what they enjoy doing the most is such a good way to help split up the work. Giving people tasks they enjoy doing and are good at means they feel heard by you and often leads to better work being done. If you feel like someone you are working with isn’t pulling their weight, before you judge, talk to them. Maybe they don’t know how to do something you asked them to do and possibly their skills are better served in a different area.
Leadership skills are important no matter what your career is. I have used my leadership abilities: when I was a waitress trying to get through a slammed night, in order to direct a busy community pharmacy and I have used my leadership skills to work successfully with fellow classmates on projects. You will always be interacting with other people in your day to day life, learn from them, help them, inspire them and let them inspire you.