What You Need To Be A Leader

leader in the spotlight

(Or find one among your staff)

By Stephen V. Rapposelli, PT

Ever since you opened your practice, you have been the big boss, the keeper of knowledge, the big cheese.

At first, it was because you were the only person on staff, and you had to do everything! But over time, you have grown. You hired staff. You now realize you can’t (or shouldn’t) do it all yourself anymore.

Have you been a good leader? Maybe you have; maybe you have had to grow into the role. Use that knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses to evaluate others in your practice for their leadership potential.

Finding and elevating new or emerging leaders is one of your core duties as owner of your business. What qualities should you look for? Here is my list:

Intellectual humility

Leaders are never done learning. They realize that they don’t know it all, and they recognize that they can learn things from anyone. Leaders know that intelligence is like ingredients in a recipe—you have to do something with it to make it valuable. There are plenty of smart people who are lousy leaders, and great leaders aren’t always the smartest in the room. Always adding to their existing database of knowledge is a quality all leaders possess.

Insatiable curiosity

Leaders are so darn curious. They say things like “Why do we do things this way?”, “I was thinking that . . .,” “How come we…,” “I wonder what would happen if…” People leave clues by what they say and do, and these phrases indicate someone who just wants to know things. Being insatiably curious is a key component to being charismatic, and it draws others in. Curious people are attractive! I wonder why that is? (Did you see what I just did?)

Unsolicited volunteerism

Leaders raise their hands when someone asks for help. Leaders raise their hands when no one asks for help. Leaders leave things better than when they found them. Example: How does someone leave their rented apartment when they vacate? Were there holes in the wall, and stains on the carpet, and trash on the floor? Did they think, “It’s not mine, so that is the next person’s problem”? Leaders make their bed, even when they stay in a hotel! Look for people who improve things, not devalue things. Look for people who want to be involved in not only their seat, but in the entire practice, the community, and with others in general.

Walker of walks

Leaders have done almost everything that they are asking of others, including cleaning the bathrooms and picking up trash. Leaders recognize that being an example to others will either inspire or serve as a warning. Leaders don’t always have the luxury of reacting; rather, they have the obligation to respond. The latter requires thinking.

Emotionally “woke”

Leaders can sense the room. They have a “spidey sense” that tingles when something is not right. Leaders speak using verbs of emotion, and are not afraid to be vulnerable in the presence of their team. Note, this does not mean that they are weak; it means that they are authentic. As the late Jim Valvano said in his famous ESPN speech: Laugh when it is time to laugh, cry when it is time to cry, and laugh when you can. (That was a total paraphrase.)

So, this is a pretty good starting place for qualities of a leader that you need to grow your business. Your next step is to figure out how to assess these qualities in an applicant. How would you test someone’s intellectual humility, or insatiable curiosity? That is for you to figure out, by thinking about what you see when someone is demonstrating those qualities that you value. For example, asking someone to recommend three books for personal development (and why) would give you great insight! You might have someone watch a video of a common office interaction that you or your staff made, and ask them to identify the emotion of the video.

Finally (and you should have seen this coming), do you yourself possess these qualities? Can others identify these qualities in you? If you are fearless, you may want to expose yourself to some 360 degree feedback and ask your team how you measure up to these qualities. You may find the answers surprising.


Stephen V. Rapposelli

Stephen V. Rapposelli, PT, is a PPS member and CEO of Performance Physical Therapy and Fitness, a multi-office clinic in Delaware. He can be reached at srapposelli@pptandfitness.com.