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Dynamic Chiropractic – June 4, 2005, Vol. 23, Issue 12


By Reed Phillips, DC, PhD

A World in Crisis

In times of crisis, such as war, individuals do what must be done to survive and ultimately win. It is during such times, when our very existence is threatened, that leaders are born.

They are not always generals like Patton or Eisenhower; often, they are the everyday, run-of-the-mill kind of people who simply do what needs to be done to save the day. A crisis is a dangerous opportunity.

While many wars rage in countries today, terrorism has brought the reality of war to our very doorsteps. The firefighters and police who tried to save people in the 9/11 attacks were heroes of a special kind. Surely their fine leaders exhibited leadership as they led their crews up the stairwells of the World Trade Center buildings.

There is another kind of crisis in our midst today - one created by the absence of integrity. Look to the leaders of corporate America, the bastions of financial veracity - or so we were led to believe. Many are now either in jail or soon will be.

Leadership in Chiropractic?

Let's bring this discussion closer to the hearth. Consider for a moment who in chiropractic is in a position to lead. Webster defines a "leader" as one who leads and "leadership" as the position or function of a leader. The following is a partial list of those who, by their position, fit the designation:

  • Presidents of chiropractic educational programs and institutions;
  • Presidents of chiropractic accreditation and evaluation organizations;
  • Presidents of international, national, state and local chiropractic organizations;
  • Presidents/CEOs of chiropractic-related businesses;
  • Authors and publishers of chiropractic communications;
  • Educators and researchers within or related to the chiropractic profession.

If we were to fill in names under these categories, the list would become rather lengthy. The question I pose is this: Which of these individuals do we revere as leaders of the chiropractic profession? Would the profession as a whole accept and recognize the same person(s) as our leader(s)?

It only took the College of Cardinals a few days to select a new pope. We will never know how many voted for him beyond the required two-thirds majority, but once elected, his right to reign is never questioned. Do we need a "chiropractic papal leader?"

As I write the biography of Dr. Joseph Janse (NCC president, 1945-1983), I authenticate what I consider a pure leader of the profession. Not everyone agreed with his point of view or voted to support his programs. But people followed his example, and they sought to be in his presence and learn at his feet. During Dr. Janse's presidency at National College, people enrolled because they would get a good education, but just as commonly, they came to National because Dr. Janse was there. He was sought after when the profession needed a national spokesperson. He served on almost every notable committee, council and governing body created during his years of service. His definitive leadership skill was not only his ability to ask for your money to support National College; but also his ability to make you feel good while you dished over the cash. And while he was extremely successful in raising funds, he never kept any for personal gain.

There is a body of people in the profession today that we admire, follow, and from whom we seek counsel. Much of this adoration is the result of the office and responsibility they hold, rather than the specific person in that office. We have other charismatic people in the profession who can put on an impressive PowerPoint presentation and tell an engaging story. Our profession has more than its share of people who have earned a "shiny" dollar, wear flashy clothes, speak eloquently, and succeed in getting us to pay them to tell us how to be like them. How many of these individuals would be willing to lead us into the "heat of battle"?

What kinds of leaders are we lining up behind? What are their ambitions and levels of integrity? Do we have any mechanism or program to train the next generation to lead our profession in an upright and respectable manner? Traditionally, leaders rise to the top through the various organizations over which they preside. Is that enough assurance that we are propagating principled individuals of the highest order?

Is the chiropractic profession mature enough to support its own leadership training program? And could such a program train individuals from the various "factions" within chiropractic under the same umbrella?

A Leadership Void

It is my opinion that while there are many good people working very hard in positions of major responsibility, there is a "true" leadership void in the chiropractic profession. To some degree, this void accounts for the continued intertribal divisiveness that continues to rip our profession apart at its very roots.

It is people in the aforementioned leadership roles who often involve themselves in major lawsuits against other members/entities of the profession. It is people in major leadership positions who write bad things (often untruths) about others in leadership positions in the profession. Many who hold the profession's trust, because of their ability to speak and charm others, are also the ones who seem to be making the most money - and they are making it off of their colleagues. Some of what they make comes back to the profession for well-meaning purposes, but I wonder, how many of these success idols have given the true "widows' mite"(Mark 12:41-44)?

Does this leadership haggling impact the 35 percent decline in enrollment of our chiropractic educational programs? Are we as a profession hemorrhaging internally because of our constant bickering, backbiting, and demeaning of our colleagues and colleges? Are we so steeped in our traditions that we are unable to see another's point of view? Will our dogmatism ultimately lead to our professional demise?

These are hard questions in need of answers - and soon. Perhaps the realization of a professional crisis will cause the real "chiropractic leaders" to step forward and lead. The choice is ours to make. We can rally behind a statesman, as did England behind the leadership of Churchill, or we can shoot the president, as they did Lincoln, even though the Civil War had ended. Presently, our course is more toward shooting (suing) the president than supporting him.

Sometimes I wonder if our professional anarchy is that different than the civil crisis in Iraq, where over the millennia of the past, none but the ruthless dictator was honored.

Are we a profession in search of a king to set the kingdom in order, or are we a profession capable of self-governance on the principles of freedom, respect and integrity?

In the words of Henry Ford:

Coming together is a beginning;
Keeping together is progress;
Working together is success.

Reed Phillips, DC, PhD
President, Southern California
University of Health Sciences
Whittier, California

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