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Inspiring Chiropractic's Leaders

By Jean McAulay
Knowing how to lead can have a lot to do with knowing how to follow. Top performers in every field are on constant alert for what’s new in their discipline, shifting trends, the latest research and, perhaps most of all, pioneers who are creating new knowledge. Those are the people a leader will follow.

Today’s Chiropractic LifeStyle sat down with five movers and shakers at Life University on whom the profession relies for leadership, inspiration, new understanding and cutting-edge thinking. Here, they tell us about the thought leaders who are helping to shape their contributions to the University and the profession.

Guy Riekeman, D.C., President
As the influential leader of the largest chiropractic college in the world and a sought-after public speaker and opinion leader in his own right, many chiropractors put Riekeman at the top of their list of thought leaders. But where does he go to tap into new sources of insight and innovation?

“Someone whose work I’m following closely is Seth Godin,” Riekeman explains. The author of 14 best-selling books on marketing, leadership and how to spread ideas, Godin’s blog is one of the most popular in the world. “Godin lays out a contemporary communication strategy that fits Chiropractic so perfectly it’s like it was invented for us,” he says.

Godin says communication efforts of the past relied on watering down a message to make it palatable to as broad an audience as possible and then pushing the message out through mass media. He turns that idea on its head by advocating that organizations make their messages unique and compelling and then get them online where like-minded people will find them.

“The Internet and social media are game changers for Chiropractic,” Riekman says. “We can now connect for free with niche groups of people who already have a vitalistic mindset. Godin tells us to shout our message from the mountaintops (or really from blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the Web) so those people can find us. It’s not about changing people’s minds anymore; it’s about connecting with the millions of people who already think like we do.”

Riekeman also finds inspiration in the work of Simon O. Sinek, author and adjunct staff member of the RAND Corporation, a global think tank. Sinek is perhaps best known for his book “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” and his concept of The Golden Circle. The model portrays three interdependent elements (Why, How and What) that enable a person or organization to function at peak ability.

“Sinek shows how the biology of human decision-making helps explain why we are much more inspired by some people, messages and organizations than others,” Riekeman says. “He demonstrates how the ‘why’ of what an individual or organization does is its strongest force for motivating others. At LIFE, we approach every decision from that giant WHY that is at our core: helping people maximize the expression of the potential within them. If an activity doesn’t mesh with our ‘why,’ we don’t do it.”

Brian McAulay, D.C., Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Provost
McAulay combines two decades of chiropractic education and leadership with a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and an American Council on Education (ACE) fellowship, to bring a unique perspective to educating the next generation of DCs.

“My philosophy of optimal organization performance is built around three elements: a compelling vision, a thoughtful strategic plan and effective execution,” McAulay says. “The three thought leaders who influence me most feed those concepts with a specific research focus.”

McAulay and his team recently studied “The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out” by Clayton Cristensen, D.B.A., a Harvard Business School faculty member. “Cristensen’s work on ‘disruptive innovation’ has helped launch conversations with the academic team about the forces most dramatically impacting higher education and how they relate to our vision,” he says.

A “disruptive innovation” capturing McAulay’s attention is Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). MIT offered an engineering course for credit and a grade free of charge for the first time this spring, and 146,000 people enrolled. Harvard, Berkeley and MIT together have formed edX, a nonprofit they are using to launch free online courses to a planned one billion students. “What edX is doing changes everything about how we look at our industry and deliver our product,” McAulay says.

He imagines potential efforts at LIFE, for example, with a vitalistic pre-health care course available globally at no charge that could serve as an entry point for all types of health care providers while educating them about vitalism.

McAulay follows the strategy work of Rosabeth Kanter, Ph.D., professor at Harvard and former editor of the Harvard Business Review about how to take organizational vision and craft it into a working plan.

Kanter’s work helps organizations understand how to identify highest priorities so limited resources can be focused to drive maximum performance and output. “In 2012, LIFE undertook a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) Environmental Analysis, with all faculty and staff weighing in, that resulted in a truly participative strategic plan,” McAulay says. “Using Kanter’s work as a springboard, we’ve developed mechanisms for ensuring our projects remain mission focused.”

He also looks to Jim Collins, management consultant and author of “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don’t” for the best thinking on effective execution. “Collins has a fascinating research approach where he compares pairs of organizations and looks at what makes one successful and one not,” McAulay explains.

McAulay’s team at LIFE uses specialized software to track goals, share updates transparently and hold each other accountable for progress.

In Collins’ latest book, “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All,” he talks about two teams in a race to the South Pole. The one that made it hiked 20 miles every day. The group that didn’t succeed hiked 40 miles on clear days and only 10 or less on challenging days. Constant and consistent progress created the bigger payoff.

“The metaphor is about disciplined progress,” McAulay says. “You have to keep striving when things look challenging and not overstep when things seem easy.”

Rob Scott, D.C., Ph.D., Vice president for academic affairs
“At the risk of sounding presumptuous, in the clinical science of Chiropractic applied in a vitalistic context, LIFE is the thought leader,” Scott shares. “I turn to my colleagues within the University to articulate our unique vision of health care and to help me construct the framework where that vision can take hold in the clinical setting for our students.”

“The steps of a chiropractic, orthopedic and neurological examination don’t differ widely, but the context in which they are interpreted can vary significantly,” Scott explains. “What changes our teaching approach and the student’s learning experience is the vitalistic context we provide for clinical practice.”

Scott also turns to outside sources such as Thomas Kuhn, Ph.D., the Harvard physicist who wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” He quotes Kuhn, saying, “Though the world does not change with a change of paradigm, the scientist afterward works in a different world.”

Similarly, Scott is inspired by scientists who present biological concepts in a context that aligns with a vitalistic view of the self-organizing, self-maintaining, self-healing ability of human beings. Key thought leaders in this area include Candace Pert, Ph.D., author of “Molecules of Emotion: The Science Between Mind-Body Medicine;” Joe Dispenza, D.C., author of “Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind;” and Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., author of “The Biology of Belief.”

David Koch, D.C., Professor of philosophy
One of the profession’s leading thinkers and writers on chiropractic philosophy, Koch is most profoundly influenced by the seminal work of the founders of the profession.

“D.D. Palmer conceptualized the fundamental role of the nerve system, how the spinal column functions as the gateway to that system, and the impact the chiropractor can have by accessing that gateway with his hands,” Koch says. “Those concepts still influence what we do and think about in Chiropractic every day.”

Likewise, Koch continues to draw insight from B.J. Palmer’s understanding of innate intelligence and how the chiropractor works with and is reliant on the healing power present within the body.

Finally, he credits Reggie Gold, D.C., with the groundbreaking thinking that took the point of intervention for Chiropractic out of the realm of sickness and into keeping well people well.

“Reggie educated us that the subluxation has such an impact on health that its correction is rightly the primary objective of chiropractic and not alleviation of symptoms,” Koch says. “Once we see Chiropractic as focused on helping people express their optimum function, the entire paradigm shifts.”

Stephanie Sullivan, D.C., Director of the Office of Sponsored Research and Scholarly Activity
Sullivan’s office provides research and funding support for the entire LIFE campus, from coaching new researchers to helping identify funding sources for experienced researchers to ensuring compliance with a variety of regulatory bodies.

She looks to peers in chiropractic research for inspiration and points to the strong thought leadership of Christine Goertz, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research and health policy at Palmer College of Chiropractic. “She is an excellent role model as a researcher, as well as a grant writer and administrator.” Goertz currently serves as a member of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Board of Governors.

Sullivan also turns to a former colleague, Ed Owens, D.C., formerly a research faculty member at Northwestern Health Sciences University and Palmer College who now serves as director of research for the for-profit TriMax Direct research and marketing firm. “He is particularly knowledgeable in statistical analysis and has been key in helping our team at LIFE frame succinct, multi-variable studies with statistical relevance,” Sullivan explains.