MSLs – Professionals versus Amateurs

I’m connecting with fascinating people in leadership development from all over the world. Recently I had a chance to speak with a retired Master Corporal from the Canadian forces who had served in Afghanistan, and who had been decorated for showing compassion toward his fellow soldiers. As a result of poor response to an incident with his troop, many of this master corporal’s comrades died in front of his eyes when they could have been saved. As a result, after he left the forces, he created a training company that simulates real life combat casualty situations. The fruits of his work will save countless lives in the battle field.

What began as a discussion about personal leadership (self leadership) versus general leadership landed us in a topic about whether someone is a “professional” versus an “amateur” in their vocation. His class talks about this during training, before these medics go out into the field and save soldiers’ lives.

This master corporal said the differentiating factor between a Professional and an Amateur is not one’s education or tenure or even training. A “professional” is marked by a distinct ATTITUDE.

* An amateur usually blames someone else for the problems then complains endlessly about it. A professional takes accountability for problems and without sugar-coating it or denying the problems exist, becomes part of the solution.
* An amateur learns until s/he gets it right. A professional learns until s/he cannot get it wrong. (I had to think about this one!)
* An amateur thinks s/he knows everything and is often arrogant. A professional knows s/he doesn’t know many things and is almost always humble.
* An amateur is comfortable only with black or white. A professional knows how to safely navigate the realities of gray areas.

I was struck by how applicable this above list is to MSLs in the field…. in areas of MSL training, compliance, and crossfunctional collaborations. Yet I also must admit that many MSLs who deem themselves “professionals” often point to their education, tenure, and/or training as the reason why they’re professional and should be treated as such by their companies.

MSLs aren’t working in the battlefield where their true markings as a professional or an amateur would make a difference between saving and losing a human life, but in a profession where making a difference in patients’ lives is frequently cited as the ultimate modus operandi, the same leadership lessons should apply. How would these parameters influence the way MSLs see their status as Professionals?

What do you think?