Should You Take That Job in Pharmacy Leadership?

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William Shakespeare once wrote “We know what we are, but not what we may be.” This is especially true when contemplating a transition into pharmacy leadership.

When you have been in a job for a long time, it typically becomes comfortable, familiar and almost easy. You begin to identify yourself with that role. You know what you do. You know what is expected. And, possibly, you know you are good at it.

But then one day you are confronted with the possibility of stepping into a leadership role. All the security and safety of your familiar job now seems to be hanging in the balances. You? In leadership? You contemplate a future no longer on the front lines of the pharmacy checking prescriptions, counseling patients, interacting with providers or reviewing charts. What would it be like? Would you enjoy it? What if…I fail? These questions often haunt the minds of pharmacists as they think about job opportunities in upper management or leadership.

How can you decide if it is right for you?

When it comes to deciding about a role in leadership the most important “thing” to know is yourself. This isn’t as easy as it may sound. We tend to view ourselves with rose-colored glasses. Flaws or problems with our personality tend to be ignored, or at least excused. We need to be brutally honest about who we are and if we are ready to take on the level of responsibility that accompanies a role in leadership.

It can certainly help to ask those who know you best. Then, having done so, be prepared to ask yourself some of the self-examining questions like the following:

Ask yourself how you handle stress, heavy demands and multiple projects. Most importantly, ask yourself how these challenges impact those around you. Does everyone know when you’re having a bad day? Do you get snippy, short, curt, irritable and angry when having to meet big goals and short deadlines? Remember, “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”

How do you generally react to problems? It is human nature to let out a groan when confronted with an issue or challenge. That’s okay. But the difference between a true leader and a follower is that a leader then steps up to the plate and deals with it. She proposes a strategy. She gathers data. She takes a stab at it. As Henry Ford remarked, “don’t find fault, find a remedy.”

How are your overall people skills? Many times an individual performer can get by on their technical skills and raw talent. Leaders, on the other hand, almost always have to get things done through (or at least with) others. This takes cooperation. This sometimes takes compromise. This takes patience. It also requires a measure of humility and a willingness to actively share the credit for accomplishments with others. Andrew Carnegie put it well, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or get all the credit for doing it.”

How are you at handling conflict? If you think that by moving up the ladder you will escape the types of battles and skirmishes that happen on the front lines…think again. The conflicts get bigger, scarier and often more intense. Can you role with the punches? How will the existence of conflict impact your life outside of work and with your family? Great ideas are often forged on the anvil of human conflict. But you need the maturity and confidence to manage conflict without losing your inner peace.

Finally, how are you at making decisions? It is a good quality to be able to see issues from many angles. However, once those perspectives have been weighed and considered, a decision needs to be made. Can you make it? There are those who simply never want to take the risk involved in making a decision. But remember what Peter Drucker once said, “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” In other words, on the whole you are no worse off taking risks than not. And it is generally the risk-takers and decision makers that contribute most to success.

So, are you ready to take a chance in a leadership role? Have you been thinking about stepping away from the front line of the pharmacy battle and engage in some of the high level planning, strategy and vision involved in an upper management role? You know who you are today, but what could you be tomorrow?

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