Becoming a Chiropractic Leader
Becoming a leader in chiropractic is easy.
In a small, fractured profession that lacks leadership, anyone can throw their hat in the ring.
The process is simple if you care to emulate it. Plenty of “gurus” outside the profession describe the process. It goes like this.
- Network with other leaders.
- Establish yourself as a thought leader via various social media outlets.
- Manipulate your audience by changing your message for each group you are in front of.
The first two options are normal routes to leadership and even the third is “normal” in our society as a whole. However, chiropractic deserves more. The message and mission we have deserves much more.
Leaders take Stands
Now before you think this guy has some nerve to stand on a soap box in a holier-than-thou position, I make no claim of being perfect or having never adapted my message for the intended audience. Like everyone, I am learning, growing, and evolving. The often raw, perturbed energy inspired by the abuse and perversion of our profession by a small minority sends me vacillating between engagement in dialogue and outright attack.
That line is a bit blurry in terms of where a leader should stand in my opinion.
What is clear is that a leader must stand.
Standing up when abuses can no longer be stood. Standing when it’s uncomfortable and both personal and financial relationships are at stake.
My few years in leadership have burst the altruistic bubble I lived in. Engaging in the chiropractic war occurring and which has been occurring for decades is not a fun or pretty thing.
Let’s time travel to the past. March 16, 2002 to the CCE “Stakeholder” meeting.
Many leaders showed up. However, few took a stand. Drs. Guy Riekeman, Gerry Clum, Shane Walker, Brian Kelly, Carl Cleveland III and Eric Russell all took the necessary stand. Noticeably absent from the conversation were those leading the Fountainhead. They have stayed amazingly silent through these very public debates over the past few years. These are not the actions of “The Trusted Leader in Chiropractic Education,” in my opinion.
My point is not to bash or call others out but to encourage our leaders to take the necessary and critical stands our profession desperately needs, for the practitioners and students to hold our leadership accountable, and for ourselves to become accountable as well. It’s one thing to criticize leadership but a whole other thing to assume positions of leadership to change that which we criticize.
Leaders Model, Inspire and Cultivate Leadership
If you’ve studied our history and hung around enough chiropractors who both loved and hated B.J. Palmer, then you will know the perception is that he did not cultivate or engender a strong line of leadership to take his place. It seems like the personality driven leadership model persists in chiropractic as there is no shortage of strong personalities willing to step up to the plate. To Palmer’s credit and the credit of leaders such as Reggie Gold, Sid Williams and Fred Barge to name a few, they were willing to take necessary and unpopular stands. Something much less common today.
Despite this culture, there are many shining examples of leadership today in chiropractic. Most notably are four colleagues and friends: Dr. Eric Russell, President of New Zealand College of Chiropractic, Dr. Bill Decken, Philosophy Chair at Sherman College of Chiropractic, Dr. Erick Swenson and Dr. Joe Merlo. These leaders inspire greatness in others. They come from a humble, authentic and service state of mind. They are brilliant and have the capacity, desire and fortitude to lead chiropractic, chiropractors and the organizations they are associated with. I tip my hat to them and am inspired by their actions, not just their words.
Leaders Begin When Others Sit By
As I stated in the beginning, it does not take much to become a leader in chiropractic but it does require much of those leaders. Whether you are a student, a new doctor or have been in practice for 20 years, the right time to lead the profession is never too early and never too late.
Find mentors in leadership that you respect and whose intent and actions personally and professionally reflect a future for chiropractic that is much brighter for ourselves and humanity.
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Steve Tullius, D.C., ACP
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