Improving Leadership in Your Organization

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Enhancing professional engagement to build future leaders.

By Mike Connors, PT, DPT, PhD

As a profession, we have experienced many great leaders at all levels of involvement in our professional organizations. These leaders have motivated us to action, moved our profession forward, and have shaped the continued evolution of physical therapy. While being a natural born leader may come easy to some, most leaders emerge from an investment in developing their skills. You can create a leadership development program in your organization, or you can help build leaders by encouraging your employees to become involved in our professional organizations.

So which approach is the most effective: investing in a significant leadership program or encouraging your clinicians to become involved in the governance of their professional organizations? The real answer is: It depends!

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First, a comprehensive leadership development program is an asset to any organization. By investing in the future leaders of your organization, you are building the future infrastructure of your company. Leaders are sometimes born but are often made, so investing in the development of your clinicians’ leadership development can only help to build the future leaders of your company. By building a comprehensive leadership program for your organization, you can ensure that the future growth of your company will occur with a solid foundation of experienced managers. Experienced managers can serve as an excellent catalyst for solid, stable expansion over time as they provide a foundation for linear growth to occur.

Encouraging your clinicians to seek leadership positions in their respective professional organizations can also help to foster leadership development. Many of those positions are accompanied by a comprehensive program to enhance leadership skills that can carry over to other parts of their professional existence. The development of leaders that occurs at an organizational level largely ascribes to a servant leadership model, which exists to serve others first. This leadership development can facilitate a paradigm shift in your organization that seeks to reward the development of the future leaders in a manner that helps facilitate their current and future success. The leadership growth that occurs with professional service helps to illustrate to a clinician the importance of professional engagement, which serves to add a higher level of professional engagement in your organization.

Investing in future leaders

So, with all that being said, how should you direct your clinicians?

First sit down with your clinicians for a needs assessment and goal-setting session to determine their specific professional goals moving forward. Next, establish how a clinician will rise through the ranks in your organization to best accomplish their goals. From there, create pathways to best facilitate the goals of your employees. If their goal is to become a future leader in your organization, then create a clear path for for them to rise through the different levels of management in your company. These future leaders will need development, but investing in people is always the best way in which to grow your organization.

If the path chosen is an internal leadership development program, what should this include?

If you are opting to develop your clinicians internally, then invest in an internal leadership development program that aims to promote growth from within. This program should highlight the attributes and values that the organization prioritizes and ensure that current and future leaders are on the same page. The program should include strengths-based instruction combined with guided mentorship.

Establish how a clinician will rise through the ranks

If the organization opts to encourage leadership development through professional service, then professional engagement should be modeled by the current leaders of the company. People may be more likely to emulate those in positions they aspire to. If the current leaders of the company are involved in our professional organizations, then there is a higher likelihood that employees will seek out those opportunities. The leadership development that occurs with professional service will eventually carry over to your organization, which can facilitate the overall leadership growth of your business.

Mike Connors, PT, DPT, PhD, s a PPS member and a regional director for Greater Therapy Centers. He can be reached at

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