Bruce Kneeland
Bruce Kneeland

If, as a pharmacy manager or owner, you spend any time on social media, you are likely to see posts that discuss ways to become a better leader. Questions are asked, opinions expressed, and leadership “nuggets” shared.

Many of the comments suggest that some of the critical leadership traits are being a good listener, providing clear direction, treating people fairly, and clearly communicating the benefits of your pharmacy to patients, prescribers, and team members. This is all good advice, but I’d like to bring up two other leadership traits I haven’t seen addressed in these posts.

Develop The Right Pharmacy Culture

First, in my opinion a pharmacy’s corporate culture is its most important competitive advantage. One definition of corporate culture I have heard is, the unwritten social structure that influences how employees will act when problems or opportunities arise. The point being that the products, prices, or services a pharmacy provides can all be duplicated. But the way you train and handle your employees and the way they treat people, handle problems, or pursue opportunities is unique to your pharmacy and cannot be easily duplicated. In my experience, establishing a positive corporate culture is job number one for any pharmacy owner or manager.

Second, a good leader is able to instill pharmacy employees with the sense that what they do serves a noble cause. That means that they believe what they do is important and serves a genuine social need. Having employees embrace the pharmacy’s noble cause will incentivize team members to work harder, smarter, and longer.

If you have any doubt about the power of a noble cause, reflect on what pharmacies have done during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of extra hours have been worked. Staff members have figured out new ways to handle temperature-sensitive product, find volunteers to help with clinics, and even find ways to placate angry customers or calm the nerves of anxious ones. This is a groundswell of extra effort put in by people even though none of these things were listed in their job description. Such is the power of a noble cause.

The good news is that serving a noble cause is part and parcel of what every pharmacy does. Perhaps now, as the pandemic appears to be diminishing, would be a good time to reflect on the importance of what your pharmacy does. It might be a good idea to involve your staff in a special meeting to help identify, articulate, write down, and celebrate the remarkable things you do for your community.

Pharmacy is about helping people live healthier and more productive lives. Everything you do is designed to make sure people get, take, and actually benefit from the medicines and personal care you provide. It has been my good fortune to visit many pharmacies where it is clear the owner and the staff believe, and have good reason to believe, that the people they serve get better care in their pharmacy than they would at any other.

Hundreds of thousands of patients suffer from complications as a result of some medication error, side effect, or mishap. Helping prevent these problems is both possible and important. Yes, it is also expensive, and adequate reimbursement for these services is not yet common. That is a subject for another day. In any case, to accomplish any of this you need to build a team. Developing the right culture and making sure your team knows that what they do is important will help you run a better pharmacy and build a better future. CT

Bruce Kneeland is an independent pharmacy veteran, author, and podcaster. He can be reached at and listened to at