Cindy Johnson, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS President

Many of you have been asked to step into a leadership role that you may not have felt qualified to take on. However, someone had confidence that you could fulfill this role, perhaps with some guidance and training. Being a leader may not be easy, and that is the reason that many continue to strive to gain the qualities of great leadership by developing their skills.

My Humble Beginning
One of the most terrifying and yet exhilarating professional decisions I have made was to apply for the general laboratory manager position at the hospital where I completed my clinical training. I wasn’t sure that I was ready for a leadership position as I had recently completed my master’s degree in clinical laboratory science and wasn’t feeling confident that I had the skills to take on this new role of leading a team that included former supervisors and clinical instructors. I knew it was a risk, yet it was an excellent opportunity to utilize my expanded knowledge while advancing my career.

The first few years were challenging as we were combining the traditional chemistry and hematology departments into what was to become the “core lab.” Cross training was stressful on the team as colleagues were uncomfortable with performing tests, i.e., manual differentials or manual WBCs and platelets, that they hadn’t done for quite some time. These laboratory colleagues were the experts in either the hematology or chemistry department and now some new leader was asking them to make that paradigm shift and work in more than one department.

I was not very sympathetic to say the least. It was hard for me to understand the anxiety level displayed by staff as I had been a generalist for eight years, working primarily on the off shifts. I was used to performing testing in all the departments, including blood bank and microbiology, and could not understand what the issue was to cross train in another department. Looking back, I know that I could have benefited from some leadership development courses early on to support the team as we transitioned into the new core laboratory model.

Traits of a Good Leader
Some of the traits of a good leader include honesty and integrity. Colleagues will respect you when you acknowledge your mistakes and give appropriate credit to those who have made a difference.

Commitment and passion. There is nothing more exhilarating than seeing a leader who cares about what they do and enthusiastically expresses that passion by supporting those around them. These inspirational leaders have the ability to encourage people to reach great pinnacles of performance and success.

Great communication skills are essential for leaders. Clearly defining the vision and purpose for the organization will help the team understand the goals that they are trying to achieve.

These are only a handful of skills that define a good leader. With support and mentoring, one can further develop these qualities. Since those early days as a new leader, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to take many courses to further expand my leadership skills. For instance, in my current organization, we are required to take a series of courses through our Education and Professional Development Department.

The New Leader Orientation to Human Resources courses include topics such as basic interviewing; giving and receiving feedback; documenting discipline; and workman’s compensation. Examples of other core courses include: Crucial Conversations (VitalSmarts); 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Leading at the Speed of Trust (FranklinCovey); and numerous courses on process improvement tools. Our health system continues to invest in their leaders as we are encouraged to take new courses as they are launched or even repeat a course that we have not taken in many years. I would encourage you to take advantage of any leadership courses that may be offered through your organization.

ASCLS Leadership Resources
ASCLS also provides resources to cultivate good leaders. The ASCLS Leadership Academy is an intense, 12-month program designed to train ASCLS members to be effective leaders that will not only benefit ASCLS and the profession, but also society as a whole. The program is designed so that the participants will understand leadership within four increasingly larger spheres of influence: self, team, profession, and public. If you have a desire to further develop your leadership talents, then you are encouraged to apply for the 2020-21 class by April 1. Apply online.

There are additional opportunities to participate in a leadership academy at the state/constituent society or regional level. Contact your ASCLS state and regional leadership for details on how you can expand your leadership skills while developing camaraderie with your fellow laboratory colleagues.

The ASCLS Leadership Development Committee
Leadership development refers to activities that improve the skills, abilities, and confidence of leaders. This committee is developing a plan for online leadership development resources for constituent societies. The modules would constitute a cohesive and customizable leadership training that could address basic leadership skills, management skills, and ASCLS generic (e.g., history) and position-specific information.

Calling all leaders! ASCLS is committed to providing resources and training for those members interested in serving in a leadership position. Please consider volunteering for a leadership role at the state/constituent society, regional level, or national level. We are all in this together as we promote and strengthen our profession.

Cindy Johnson is senior director of laboratory services at CentraCare in St. Cloud, Minnesota.