So, you want to be a leader. This is a commendable aspiration, but there are a few questions you should ask yourself before you dive in. Are you willing to take the heat for an unpopular decision? Are you willing to give up precious family time? Are you willing to be chastised by your fellow professionals? Are you willing to ride out controversy from the gossip mill in chiropractic, and outright abuse from beyond the profession? Are you willing to be accused of things so ridiculous that you won't be sure whether to laugh or cry? Are you willing to suffer criticism patiently, and respond on the basis of reason and logic? Then step right up and begin your journey.
So, you want to be a leader.Fine. Have you paid your dues? Have you first become a joiner: an active member and participant in whatever arena you would like to be a leader? Have you taken the time to learn how the game is played, in whatever area you'd like to be active? Have you developed the listening skills necessary to understand what your constituents' concerns may be? Have you learned the art of compromise? Do you know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em? Think so? Then step right up and begin your journey.
My first exposure to chiropractic leadership began when a friend talked me into becoming involved with my district subdivision of the Minnesota Chiropractic Association some 40 years ago. I started at the bottom; that meant soliciting new members. I really didn't mind, but that was where I learned only a few do what many should! I also became involved with politics beyond the profession, and that became my real love. I worked to elect candidates who had been given no chance, and when they won - I was thus connected. The lesson here is simple but powerful: Much of your hard work now may not pay off for many years. Another lesson learned way back when is the simple dynamic of time. I thought I wanted to be president of our Minnesota society. However, I discovered that practicing in rural Minnesota did not lend itself well to being at all of the functions necessary to become a good president. I came to realize that there were other ways to contribute and to lead.
When I relocated from Minnesota to Arizona some 16 years ago, I promised myself I would stay out of professional politics. I felt a duty to become a dues-paying member of the Arizona Association of Chiropractic (AAC), but I was determined to focus my attention on developing my new practice and investigating the clinical utility of the Activator. I don't know, maybe it's just something in the blood, but when a friend talked me into serving on a legislative committee for the AAC, I was hooked again. Truth be told, I had no idea what would follow when I acquiesced and started that journey.
Not long thereafter, I was persuaded to become a member of the commission that organized the Mercy Conference,1 one of the more controversial episodes in recent chiropractic history. After Mercy came "Best Practices," which has involved a dedicated group of clinicians who are trying to help chiropractors step into their rightful place in health care. More controversy! Has all of this been worth it?
I hope this column serves as encouragement, as well as a "heads up," to our younger generation of practitioners. With all of the abuse and negativity I have encountered over the years, in the end, the sacrifices have been worth it. I have learned more than I have contributed. I have gained more satisfaction than grief. And during my time in the profession, I have witnessed our growth and development in many areas. Licensure in all 50 American states was finally achieved during my professional career (not that I had anything to do with it). Once upon a time, not so long ago, we were not included in the Medicare program. Insurance reimbursement was a scarce phenomenon. Chiropractors had no official role in the armed forces or in the care of veterans. The notion of a "science of chiropractic" was considered a joke in the wider health care community. Not so many years ago, a chiropractor could not get published in a critical, scholarly, health science journal, or had to hide his or her DC credential in order to do so. Times have changed. Certainly, we have yet to establish the cultural authority we would like.2 On the other hand, the persistence of chiropractic leaders in many fields of professional activity has yielded dividends we could barely imagine 40 years ago.
So, you want to be a leader. This is a good thing, for we must involve our younger doctors in the critical decision-making in the profession associations, in the regulatory agencies, and in the scientific and health care policy-making communities. I hope you will say "Yes" when asked by a friend to help with your state or national organization, or other professional group. I hope too that you will recognize that in a profession traditionally populated by mavericks, things can and will get wild and wooly at times. Walk, don't run; give yourself the benefit of time to prepare now - so that you can lead down the road.
- Haldeman S, Chapman-Smith D, Petersen DM (eds.): Guidelines for Chiropractic Quality Assurance and Practice Parameters. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen, 1993.
- Keating JC, Hyde TE, Menke JM, et al. In the quest for cultural authority. Dynamic Chiropractic, Dec. 16,2004: www.chiroweb.com/archives/22/26/09.html.
Arlan Fuhr, DC
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