Vision, purpose, and passion drive leaders in pharmacy


One other thing that really good leaders have: Really good managers.

What do you see as the future of pharmacy? Do you have the necessary skills to lead practice change in your organization? Marialice S. Bennett, RPh, FAPhA, has some ideas about the traits shared by leaders tasked with motivating managers and driving an idea forward into action.

See also: 3 tips to becoming an exceptional pharmacy leader

Marialice Bennett“I think the key message for leaders to think about is having a vision, purpose, and a passion. If you’re not able to influence people through these last two traits, then your vision is essentially doomed,” said Bennett, emeritus professor of The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, during a presentation at the 2016 American Pharmacists Association (APhA) annual meeting in Baltimore.

“Pharmacy has a growing role in the delivery of healthcare, and one important critical force is being out in the community where people live,” she continued.

Bennett is confident that the pharmacy profession is poised to increase its profile and value to the community, and to play a critical role in the delivery of healthcare.

“We can now take much more responsibility for the outcomes of the medication, beyond dispensing the right medications with the right labels. Our next step is getting patients the outcome they deserve and need,” she said. “So, while pharmacists should still be responsible for making sure the system works, someone else can be filling prescriptions, which will allow more time for the pharmacist to talk to patients about how to make the best use of their medications.”

Emotional intelligence

While change is envisioned by leaders, Bennett said, it is managers who put the vision into action.

“I think of it as leaders setting the purpose and the best principles; the management sets the best practices to set the vision in motion. Managers focus in the system, but leaders focus on the system. In other words, while management involves climbing the ladder fast, leaders make sure the climbing is on the right wall.”

The successful leader/manager partnership thrives on good communication, which is far and away the most essential skill, Bennett said. She stressed that a high level of emotional intelligence (EI) is equally important for building relationships. “Emotional intelligence is a concept that allows us to discriminate different feelings, to understand how emotions drive our behavior before we think. And, we can also use this information to guide how we think.”

 IQ and EI differ in key ways, Bennett said, explaining that while an individual’s IQ cannot change - “you can learn more, but there is the baseline of intelligence and that does not change” - an individual’s EI can be raised.

“Being aware of yourself and of the feelings and responses of people around you is so critical for individuals who aspire to becoming a transformational leader,” she said.

In fact, Bennett said, in studies correlating intelligence with success, 90% of high performers also have high EI, while “people with high IQs outperform people with average IQs only 20% of the time.”

“So your IQ doesn’t correlate with your success,” she said, but a high EI goes a long way toward fulfillment of the leadership vision.

See also: Women in pharmacy: Leadership roles


Know your leadership frame

Leadership qualities are not  one-size-fits-all. Bennett described four discrete leadership styles - structural, human resource, political, and symbolic - each with its strengths and weaknesses.

For example, individuals with a human resources style “believe people are the heart of the organization” and “are effective in providing support to advocate and empower people.” However, they could be perceived as “pushovers and blind to certain failings of others.”

Symbolic leaders can be visionary and passionate, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs - leaders who actually personify the “brand” of their company. The strength of these lies in their capacity to inspire, but if they have ineffective managers to implement their vision, they may be perceived as weak figureheads.

The takeaway

Getting to the next tier of pharmacy practice is a marathon, not a sprint, said Bennett. It is driven by good communication, relationship-building, and creation of partnerships. These essential skills are all part of being engaged in the community, Bennett said. Successful leaders empower people to create change, and by initiating large-scale change, they create a vision of the new normal.

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