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Being Bold, Being Authentic, Being Empathetic

By Sarah Sorum, PharmD, PSW Executive Vice President & CEO

When we can’t find the right words ourselves, we look to others for their words of inspiration and insight…

“Anybody who doesn’t believe we are beyond a state of emergency is choosing to lack empathy and awareness.” – Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., August 23, 2020 #BLM

At the beginning of the pandemic, Forbes published a commentary, “Do People Feel You Genuinely Care? Why Empathy is Crucial to Leading through Crisis.” How many of us have felt fear, overwhelm, grief, isolation, confusion, sadness, anger, anxiety, and other emotions during this time? I know I have. All of those emotions; some more than others. The author of the commentary, Margie Warrell, says, “…emotional management is simultaneously one of the greatest challenges and opportunities for leaders – at all levels – in the midst of a crisis.” I believe that to be true. She goes on to say, “Empathetic leaders feel genuine concern for others and are intrinsically motivated to help them thrive.” Warrell’s description of an empathetic leader sounds a lot like what we want PSW to be.

We want PSW to be an organization that shows genuine concern for our patients and the pharmacy professionals that serve them. We want PSW to be an organization that is driven to act to improve the care of patients. We want PSW to be an organization that is driven to help pharmacy professionals thrive. During a global pandemic, this time of crisis in racial inequality, and this time of economic crisis, caring for our patients and those that serve them shows we care all of the time.

While we express this empathy, we can be bold and challenge the status quo. The expression of empathy doesn’t make us soft or emotional, it makes us strong and steadying. It supports our ability to get the hard work done and lift others as we go forward.

There are better days that lay ahead; I’m positive of it. We need to think about what we want pharmacy practice to look like on the other side of the pandemic. What opportunities exist for pharmacy professionals to impact the systemic racism in their communities and in our healthcare system? I’m so optimistic about what our great people in this profession will do, together, to support patients and their communities.

I have the opportunity to meet with my counterparts working for other state pharmacy associations across the country fairly regularly. Many of them are very close friends. I’m inspired by their work serving their states and their members. Recently, I was introduced to a group of my counterparts leading other associations in Wisconsin. I truly appreciate the chance to learn from them as well. They represent all different types of members; some healthcare professionals, some essential workers, and many others. During a recent conversation with an experienced counterpart, he said to me, “Never lose sight of who you are as a leader. You’ll never be Chris or any other leader. You need to be you.”

I believe in leading with authenticity and empathy. I learned a long time ago that the most powerful question you can ask someone you work with is, “What do you think?” We develop our skills of empathy through listening. PSW is listening to our members and we are ready to help you thrive through bold innovation and connection with one another.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

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