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How to see your pharmacy through the Leadership Lens

Do you have a Leadership Lens? Do you look at things with a leader’s perspective? Do you look at situations and assess the ways you can help someone get from where they are to another place? If you do not, do not be discouraged. You are not alone.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the "Leadership Lens" in an article. At that time, I made a note to myself to explain that concept in a little more detail. Before things get too far removed, I decided that we should do just that.  

What comes to mind when you think of a lens? For some, perhaps eyeglasses or contact lenses come to mind. For others, perhaps you think of a lens that you attach to a camera. In either case, the lens allows you to take an environment and see that environment differently. In the case of eyeglasses, you can see more clearly. In the case of a camera, you can see something far away or very small. 

When I talk about the Leadership Lens, it is similar. The Leadership Lens allows you to see things with a leader’s perspective. 

Let me give you an example. 

I was talking to a pharmacist in South Carolina about helping his patients become more adherent to their statin medications. When I asked him how he approached his patients, his response was most telling. With a sigh, this pharmacist admitted to not knowing what to say to his patients. He went on to tell me that he simply showed his patients a diagram. From the pocket of his smock, he pulled an illustration that had been torn from a pharmacy magazine showing the different stages of artery blockage.  He said, “I only know to show them this.” He was frustrated and defeated by the challenge of helping his patients take their statins.

What was most interesting about this short conversation was that I heard his response through the Leadership Lens. (Yes, the lens is not only what you see, but it can also be what you hear.) What I heard this pharmacist say was, “I don’t know how to lead my patients to be adherent to their statins.”  When it came to the tools in the toolbox to help his patients, he only had one – the artery illustration. 

I must tell you, I didn’t always have a Leadership Lens. This was something I had to develop. I developed my Leadership Lens though a number of leadership blunders. Here is one that stands out to me because I did not have the Leadership Lens. At the time, I was serving on a team that was challenged to train about 12,000 pharmacists to administer immunizations. To this group of four people, it was a gigantic task. 

Knowing that, each of us had the opportunity to assemble a team. We went through an extensive process to identify and interview candidates to join our teams to help with this endeavour. As you can imagine, after interviewing dozens of pharmacists, some stood out as better candidates than others. As we were selecting the people who would join our respective teams, I had the opportunity to visit one of my top pick’s pharmacy.  It was after dinner, and from the looks of things, it had been a rough day for this pharmacist and his team. Thinking I was being encouraging, I simply told this young pharmacist that he should be expecting a call from the Human Resources department in the coming days with an offer. About that time, we were interrupted by a member of his staff. I do not recall what the interruption was about, but I can clearly recall his response. And it stands out to me all the more for what I failed to see that day. After speaking with his technician, he turned back to me and said, “I can’t get any of these people to do what I want them to do.”

Ladies and gentlemen, at that point I had no Leadership Lens. If I had, I would have realized that this pharmacist, much like the pharmacist I met years later in South Carolina, had a very limited leadership toolbox.

He was struggling to lead his team and his patients in that environment, so I wrongfully thought it would be a good idea to have him lead more pharmacists! Needless to say, we were not as successful as we could have been. But I do not blame this young pharmacist. I can only blame myself. I did not look at this situation through the Leadership Lens. If I had, I would have seen the challenges that were all around.

This was one of many lessons that I was taught over the years. I find it amazing that you can be taught the same lesson over and over again. They are not simply taught just once. Lessons are repeated until you learn them. 

The lesson I learned between these two stories is the need to have a Leadership Lens. Let me remind you of a couple facts. First, you are a leader. Second, everyone deserves to be led well. You have countless people, both directly and indirectly, looking to you to lead them well. They are looking to you to have a toolbox with several tools in it, not just one. They are expecting you to see how best to lead them.

Do you have a Leadership Lens? Do you look at things with a leader’s perspective? Do you look at situations and assess the ways you can help someone get from where they are to another place? If you do not, do not be discouraged. You are not alone. I spent over a decade of my career with absolutely no awareness of the Leadership Lens.  And there is good news. Just as you can go to an optometrist to find the right lenses to see better, you can learn the lenses that will help you lead better. 

Until next time –

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

Connect with Jesse on LinkedIn


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