Monday, July 02, 2018 2018 NEXT: PTs Offer Guidance on Developing Leadership Abilities A panel of 5 physical therapists (PTs) in various stages of their careers offered NEXT 2018 attendees their advice on how to become leaders and succeed professionally. The PTs were Carrie Cunningham, PT; Michael Gans, PT, DPT; Matthew DeBole, PT, DPT; Stephanie Weyrauch, PT, DPT, MSci; and Elizabeth Nixon, PT, DPT. Despite their varying levels of experience and their supporting anecdotes, their advice to those in attendance was similar. One agreed-upon observation is that leadership success is usually preceded by failures or setbacks. Cunningham, a board-certified clinical specialist in orthopaedic physical therapy who described herself as a mid-career PT, said, "Falling down is a part of life. I've learned from failures. Don't let fear stop you from the things you need to do to be a leader." Nixon, who graduated in 2016, admitted. "I had a lot of failures before I succeeded. For example, I interviewed at the University of North Carolina 3 times before I got in. I applied to get scholarships to attend professional meetings. But I kept losing out, so I paid to attend. I kept applying for scholarships, and I eventually got a few. If I'd given up the first time I'd gotten rejected, I wouldn't be standing here today." Many panelists cited positive experiences attending APTA programs, particularly as students. Matthew DeBole recalled, "I attended CSM in Chicago along with 3 other classmates. We were overwhelmed and in awe. There was a major program scheduled that everyone else went to. But I went to another session on leadership. I was super-curious and intrigued. By the time I got back home, I wanted all my classmates to attend the next meeting and even formed a Facebook group so we could attend CSM in San Diego the next year. I was motivated to run for a position on the Student Assembly Board of Directors and won. I was welcomed and helped. Others were open and very willing to help." Weyrauch said, "I attended NEXT in Charlotte. At a luncheon, I was seated next to some icons of the profession. And they talked to me—and all of us [with respect]." Many agreed on another aspect of academics: Getting the best grades isn't necessary to succeed as a PT or as a leader. For instance, Gans—now president of the Connecticut Chapter—admitted, "I wasn't the greatest student. My goal on graduation was to pass the Boards. Then I read Anthony DeLitto's McMillan lecture in PTJ. That alone got me to attend NEXT in 2010, where I heard Andrew Guccione's McMillan Lecture. That convinced me I needed to do more." Gans is a board-certified clinical specialist in orthopaedic physical therapy. Weyrauch advised the students in the audience: "Academics is important in physical therapist school, but you're going to have the biggest impact by doing some of those extra things you'll have the opportunity to do." Weyrauch presented 6 additional pieces of advice: Be fearless and say "yes." Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Be open to and learn how to give feedback. Network, network, network. Develop expertise and competency Be genuinely accountable and a good listener. The others on the panel agreed. Regarding feedback, Cunningham said, "Feedback is a great opportunity for growth." On networking, DeBole said: Try to connect with the right people and figure out the best way to go. Continue to connect with the people around you." The panel also had some advice for more experienced PTs. Gans said, "It only takes 1 person telling you to get involved. All it took was a single person to fuel my fire." Cunningham observed, "There are lots of opportunities in APTA. But you're all leaders in your day-to-day activities, in your own settings, and with your patients. Ask yourself: ‘How can I be better in the clinic every day?'"