Monthly Archives: September 2017

Recent Work | “Leadership: Not Such a Leap”

Cover of leadership article

The benefits of early-career leadership that this article explores apply well beyond the physical therapy profession. Involvement, commitment, connection, and self-reflection have universal value. This article was published in the fall 2017 issue of the American Physical Therapy Association’s Perspectives magazine.
View the complete article


Leadership isn’t just for the self-confident and those who already are established in their careers. Leadership opportunities take many forms, and early-career physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) can take advantage of all of them.

Being a leader in one’s profession isn’t limited to accepting committee assignments or taking on elected roles. “You’re a leader to your patients,” notes Matt Gratton, PTA, a member of APTA’s Early Career Team Task Force who works at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “You’re a leader within your organization just by being there on time, being passionate with your patients, and having a positive attitude.”

Aaron Embry, PT, DPT, MSCR, debunks the notion that leadership requires special abilities or resume points. Although he is president of the South Carolina Physical Therapy Association and a research associate at the Center for Rehabilitation Research at the Medical University of South Carolina, he insists that there is nothing inherently special in any of that. “What is most important,” he says, “is that I show up, pay attention, and hustle—that I work hard. If you do all of the basic, common-sense things—be inquisitive, care, and be there for patients, clients, and colleagues—you’ll be amazed at how much will happen to develop you into someone who can lead people.”

Leadership involves consistently taking on challenges, Embry says. “Do I face challenges with integrity, honesty, and bravery,” he asks himself, “and acknowledge that I might succeed, but also that I might fail? What do I learn from my missteps to ensure that they’re not true failures?” He finds, he says, that dealing with each new challenge helps him better tackle the next one.

Cookies: Pride, Doubt, Decisions

It’s a tough choice: which cookie to eat?

Really, it shouldn’t be so difficult. I can just grab any of the batch of homemade cookies and take a bite. They’re not getting any fresher.

cookieYet still I hesitate. At Christmas, when I’ve baked decorated gingerbread or sugar cookies that I might share with friends, maybe it makes a little bit of sense to eat the uglier cookies first. Sure, take that tree that’s slightly dark and crisp on the edge. Eat that mitten where the icing ran off and the sprinkles didn’t stick very well. But that trumpet with the silver dragees? That sparkling snowflake? I almost can’t bear to see them go.

This kind of indecision does not make sense when I’m facing a batch of peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies. And yet my hand hovers over the tin. My brain whispers, “No, that one’s too perfect. Take that smaller, more misshapen cookie with not as many chips.”

Why am I saving the beautiful cookie? Sure, my husband or son would enjoy it, but not more than its less-perfect sibling.

Is it pride? Do I try to save my pretty cookies so I can show off my (not very amazing) food styling skills?

Or is it part of Giving Mom syndrome? When I was a kid, my mom always took the broken piece of pie, the slice of cake without the rose, the less attractive potatoes, and she always served herself last. During an angry teenager phase, I thought this reflected her submission to my father. But as a parent myself and a cook who loves to sit down with my husband at the end of the day to enjoy a meal I’ve prepared, I have a different perspective. Cooking is a gift to those you love, including yourself. We feed because we care and want our loved ones to be happy. We take the ugly slice of quiche because we want them to enjoy the beautiful one and we know the appearance doesn’t affect the taste. (And, if I’m being honest, we want to forestall any whining about the food by picky children.)

Maybe I just want more time with the beautiful fruits of my labors. In that case, maybe I should switch to a craft that produces something lasting. Ah, but then I wouldn’t have cookies, and that was the whole point of the exercise.