How can Pharmacists become Leaders?


I have often been asked the questions about my own leadership journey.  How did I develop skills, how do I create high performance teams, where did I start and what am I doing now? 

Firstly, I want to share what I think real leadership is so we have a common understanding of what we are talking about. 

Leadership is not about title, position or power.  It is also not the same as management.  Managers do a job and many of them never transition to be leaders.  Leaders take responsibility for those who do the job.  They “take care of” those they lead.  This is not a soft, idealistic, airy sort of concept.  It is doing the hard work of recognizing the potential of those you lead, developing their talents, as well as working with their limitations to continually encourage growth.  It is about creating trust within the team, not avoiding difficult situations, continually bringing the team together.  It is about setting the environment and developing the culture where growth can happen and creativity flourishes; where team members feel they are essential to the team, contributing to a higher purpose and feel free to express frustrations as well as ideas and solutions. 

There are many ways pharmacists can learn leadership skills.


Observation of others



Trial and error

When I started out as a manager, not yet understanding what leadership really was, I went purely by trial and error. ( To be clear, this is not the recommended route!)  I was a manager, and started to realize that I wasn’t doing a super great job with my staff.  I was falling prey to negativity, stress, and lack of clarity.  It took me awhile to realize that what I needed to focus on was my own development so I could create the culture I needed to cultivate a strong team.  Mentorship would’ve been invaluable when I started out, but I didn’t have anyone I knew in pharmacy that was a role model for this.  So after a lot of trial and error, failures and small wins, I started educating myself on leadership and teams and started applying some of my learning.  I asked for regular feedback from trusted team members, realizing with much humility, that I had a lot to learn.

One of my biggest lessons in the last few years is that leadership is a lifestyle.  It is not a destination.  Even when you have achieved your goals, even when the team is built and it is performing well, positivity is high and team members are thriving, it is not over.  Circumstances always change and develop and shake up the equilibrium.  COVID is a great example of this.  Incorporating new team members is another example and perhaps one of the most challenging to an already high functioning team. 

If this is all so hard, why bother? Why not just continue as we are?  Well, the answer seems to be pretty clear in many blogs and posts and comments and discussions in dispensaries around the country.  Pharmacists and dispensary staff are not happy.  They tolerate their jobs.  Disillusionment begins almost immediately after graduation for new pharmacists. The purpose of the leadership lifestyle is to create and maintain teams who trust each other, take care of each other and value each other and the organization in which they work.  Who doesn’t want that?  Who doesn’t want to feel they are cared for, looked after, that their work has meaning and they enjoy being part of the team?  That is your job as a leader.  It is no small feat but one so valuable it changes lives. 

Below are some resources to kick start your learning as a leader.  Enjoy the journey!

Brown, Brené,
Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts.New York : Random House, 2018.  

Sinek, Simon. LEADERS EAT LAST: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. New York: PORTFOLIO/PENGUIN,

Covey, Stephen M. R.,, Rebecca R. Merrill, and Stephen R. Covey. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. Unabridged. [United States]: AB Publishing, 2017  

Harvard Business Review: Leadership Resources