Leadership Recommendations for New Practitioners and Pharmacists

By Carolyn O'Donnell posted 05-24-2022 08:41

By: Carolyn O’Donnell, PharmD; Chief Pharmacy Resident & PGY-2 Psychiatric Pharmacy Resident at University at Buffalo/New York State Office of Mental Health at Buffalo Psychiatric Center

As many new practitioners are starting in their pharmacy careers, leadership roles may seem far away and leadership skills may be delayed until a later point. However, whenever we are working with teams, working with colleagues, or working toward a goal, we have opportunities for leadership even if our title is not Manager, Director, or Vice President. In completing an elective residency rotation with ASHP, I witnessed a culture where leaders were true mentors, innovation was supported, and different perspectives were encouraged. From these experiences, I wanted to learn how that environment can be replicated in other pharmacy practice settings.

In talking with leaders within ASHP, it was very clear that all members are heavily valued, no matter how far along they are in their careers. Students and pharmacy residents on rotation were treated as part of the team and asked to provide feedback for improvement. Everyone seemed to have a true “growth mindset” where there was always room to improve. When challenges were presented, team members looked for solutions and used those challenges as opportunities to use creativity to solve the problem.

Important advice I received was to identify strengths and learn from failures. As we are working on teams, can we identify our other team members’ strengths and how they can best be utilized? If not, using assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or StrengthsFinder can help teams apply each member’s specific strengths to a project. Also, using failures as an opportunity to learn is crucial to growth within an organization. It is easy to micromanage a group but allowing your teams to try ideas that may be different than your own can inspire innovation. If an idea is not successful once it is executed, it provides a learning experience for those involved. Allowing teams to try out ideas (as long as they do not negatively impact patient care), even if they do not always work out, allows teams to take ownership, feel empowered, and feel valued. Being humble and showing humility is also a part of this process.

It is also important to understand that innovation happens from diverse teams working together. This can include diverse backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and experiences. Developing a trusting environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their viewpoints is crucial to growing a strong team. This includes resolving conflict together, rather than airing grievances separately. All these leadership techniques have the potential to make a cohesive, motivated, and inspired team. I hope to take what I have learned from these experiences to shape my pharmacy career and I would encourage everyone to consider how they work on a team and how they can be a leader, even without a leadership role.