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08/26/2021

What leadership is definitely NOT

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera
Jesse McCullough: there's a huge difference between leadership and management

Over the last several blog posts, you and I have been looking at what leadership is and what leaders do. 

Today, we are going to address something that often confuses people about leadership.  That something is management! Is management leadership? Surely, we think of our bosses, supervisors and managers as leaders of sorts, do we not? Doesn’t that, by definition, make our bosses, supervisors and managers leaders? In one respect yes, absolutely! But in another, the answer is absolutely not!

There is a dramatic difference between leaders and managers, and this difference is around their objectives. Previously we have looked at leaders as people who lead others from where they are to another destination and that destination is uphill. It is always uphill. Managers often do not have the same objective. Many times, managers look to ensure that a process is followed correctly and that the wheels don’t fall off the car. A phrase that may help connect this is: leaders lead, managers maintain.

Managers play a vital role in making sure things run smoothly and they are a valuable part of every team. Managers maintain the process and make sure that it is repeated correctly time and time again. The fast-food burger joint has a manager to make sure the process of making hamburgers is repeated over and over, in some cases to the tune of billions of burgers. We have managers in our pharmacies who make sure prescriptions are prepared and ready for our patients. We have processes to provide specific services, such as immunizations, to our patients. Each of these services has a process that we have learned to follow efficiently. We have processes for ordering products and supplies that we have learned to manage. It's clear that managing is a vital element in any well-running organization. 

But it is not leadership. 

Even with all the processes in place and all the management running them, you know there are patients who still struggle in one way or another. Perhaps it is to control a patient's diabetes with insulin. Perhaps it is to not have to use a rescue inhaler for another patient's asthma. Patients still struggle. 

These are the types of situations that call for clear leadership. This is the uphill climb that you are so well positioned to help your patients take. This is where new ideas and strategies are identified and implemented to help your patients remember to take their medications and follow correct procedures. This is where challenges are met with a gritty resolve to help lead your patients to better health. It is work that is both frustrating and fulfilling at the same time. 

As you go through your day, be mindful of the parts of your day that call to be managed and the parts of your day that call for leadership. You will find that you have both. You may even find one to be easier than another. You may also find that those times in your day where you are leading others are, in fact, some of the most memorable moments!

Until next time -

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

More Blog Posts In This Series

  • Leading in pandemic times

    Leadership is a big topic in most situations, but then throw in some uncertain times, like a pandemic, and there are a couple lessons to learn.
  • What – who? – are your most valuable assets?

    Your most valuable asset is your TEAM! In my career, I have dispensed in over two dozen pharmacies. As such, I have had the privilege of working with many different teams. I can tell you that I did not always look at my team as an asset. In some cases, I actually looked at my team as a liability.
  • Greener grass comes from good watering

    Perhaps your experience since the beginning of the pandemic has you thinking that the grass may be greener somewhere else. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.
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