How to Find Your Voice at the Leadership Table

PA Leader DeTroye Share Her Tips

September 10, 2020

By Eileen Denne, CAE, APR

Alisha T. DeTroye
Alisha T. DeTroye, MMS, PA-C, DFAAPA

Looking for ways to ensure that your voice is heard at the leadership table? Alisha T. DeTroye, MMS, PA-C, DFAAPA, shares her tips. DeTroye is director of PA Services at Wake Forest Baptist Health and president-elect of North Carolina Academy of PAs.

PA leadership is a journey
It is a circuitous route to PA leadership, DeTroye says. She cites Warren Bennis who said, “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership… in fact, the opposite is true, leaders are made rather than born.”

DeTroye started her journey by serving as president of the Piedmont Association of PAs and local PAs helped guide her. She suggests getting involved and staying involved in leadership activities, through professional organizations, community engagement, public health campaigns, or scholarly activities.

Along the way, she says, it doesn’t hurt to check out formal leadership development training including self-awareness tools such as Myers-Briggs, DISC training, StrengthsFinder, and Insights Discovery assessments. She recommends reading about emotional intelligence, investing in training in public speaking and, of course, embarking on lifelong learning.

[PA Krisi Gindlesperger’s Path to Leadership]

Cindy Leonard, Dottie Jones, Gail Curtis, Alisha DeTroye, Christopher Craig, Allie Thompson
Wake Forest Baptist Health was named a 2018-2019 EOE winner last May for establishing a positive and supportive PA work environment amongst other criteria. Left to right: Cindy Leonard and Dottie Jones, APP Recruiters; Gail Curtis PA-C, Chair Wake Forest PA Studies; Alisha DeTroye, PA-C Director of PA Services; Christopher Craig, PA-C APP Council; Allie Thompson, PA-C APP Resilience Champion Mentor.

Ask questions before accepting the leadership invitation
When an opportunity for a leadership position comes along, DeTroye says, ask three questions to help assess whether you want to accept the invitation:

1) Does the position meet your passion?

2) Does it offer opportunity for growth?

3) Can you commit fully to come to the table?

Along the way, she suggests building your internal network of clinical practice and inter-professional colleagues. It also helps to find a champion in the C-suite who is willing to advocate for you and open doors.

[Maureen Regan: From Clinical Provider to Healthcare Exec]

Prepare for a seat at leadership table
Once you arrive, DeTroye recommends being clear about the organizational goals and what your PA role is. This may differ depending on whether you are representing yourself, your department, or system. She suggests being well-prepared by researching the topics to be discussed and the attendees. She also says consider pre-meetings to determine allies and adversaries, and once in the room, check your emotions at the door.

“It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” Les Brown

Prepare for a voice at leadership table
Getting ready to speak at the leadership table also takes preparation, DeTroye asserts. Your approach depends on whether your goal is to inform, educate, inspire, motivate, or persuade. You also need to consider the audience’s perspective and what’s in it for them. Anticipate their concerns, values, and questions. Engage supportive champions before you begin. As one who is delivering an expert opinion, you should deliver a strong opening, provide evidence to make your case, and close with your ask or affirmation. Be sure to follow up to answer any questions.

Other important aspects are arriving early to check the environment and technology. Dress for success, she says, and take on a confident power pose during delivery. After your presentation, ask for feedback from a trusted champion, then do a debrief and confirm next steps.

[Hospital Medicine Fellowship Program Can Launch PA Leadership Roles]

Alisha DeTroye accepts a 2018-2019 EOE award
DeTroye accepting a 2018-2019 EOE award last May as a representative of Wake Forest Baptist Health.

Align with the strategic plan
DeTroye recommends matching PA goals with system strategy and highlights strategic planning: goal setting with objectives. The PA perspective should stress PA engagement as key to retention; PA recruitment with necessary financial support; aligning key points on compliance, quality, and safety; focusing on preceptors to create a learning health system. On your leadership journey, it is helpful if your employer has a leadership structure and growth plan.

Navigate the emotional roller coaster
Celebrate success, DeTroye recommends, but stay humble. Look at the valleys as opportunities rather than challenges. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective and identify barriers and ideas for engagement. Use your network. PA not only means physician assistant but passionate advocate, DeTroye believes.

[Join AAPA as a Student Member]

Expand your network
Don’t forget your roots, DeTroye reminds potential leaders. Consider pre-PA school mentors, PA classmates, and your closest family and friends as your support team. Be sure to network with PA colleagues in professional organizations and connect with community partners and former colleagues. Take advantage of AAPA and Center for Healthcare Leadership and Management networking opportunities and don’t forget about AAPA’s online community Huddle which includes a library of resources.

Be sure to share your leadership knowledge and build your own trusted team. Consider work-life balance and use resources to work smarter, not harder. Always advocate for yourself in terms of getting what you want in title, compensation, professional development, and career growth opportunities. Once you arrive, DeTroye reminds everyone, share a place at the leadership table and the limelight.

Alisha T. DeTroye, MMS, PA-C, DFAAPA, is director of PA Services at Wake Forest Baptist Health and president-elect of North Carolina Academy of PAs. Contact her at [email protected].

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in May 2019.

More Resources
Leadership on Demand
Student Leadership Opportunities

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