Making the Transition from ‘New Associate’ to Leader

Becoming involved in a leadership role as a new associate can be tricky. While trying to become the best doctor possible and hone medical skills, asserting oneself as a leader as a new team member is a challenge many of us face.  Instead of using this newness as a roadblock in becoming leaders in a work environment, it can be used as a motivational force in establishing ourselves as individuals who can make a difference.

Innovation, enthusiasm and positive energy are attributes usually associated with the ‘new grad’ status. These qualities allow someone to lead by example, which I feel is a key method of leading in any setting. For example, if I exude the qualities that I wish others to possess, perhaps my energy will inspire others to follow suit.

The current generation of veterinarians had a greater emphasis on the development of communication skills during schooling. Many of us new associates have had formal training in handling difficult client situations, staff interactions, and overall self-awareness. Although these skills will be honed in practice, having the framework laid during veterinary school is an invaluable tool when entering a new work setting. Being able to establish positive relationships with clients, staff, other associates, and superiors will generate respect, and thus, promote leadership qualities.

Taking small steps by setting achievable, short-term goals that fit within a larger context is a great method for a new associate to initiate change. It is easy to become daunted when faced with resistance or having too diverse interests or goals (at least initially). By picking a specific area of interest, a niche within the practice can be established and small changes can be made. These changes can result in a larger paradigm shift as trust builds.

I do not see my status as the ‘new associate’ as a negative term and I accept my limitations as well as what I have to offer based on my experiences. In addition, I recognize the positive traits displayed by my leadership role models and hope to emanate those qualities as I further develop my own skill set.  With time, small changes can result in significant impact in any setting, and I encourage members of my veterinary generation to continue to take pride in what we can accomplish.

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