WHO MOVED MY PIZZA?: A Basic Understanding of Leading

Posted in Blog, Centrex University at Oct 17, 2013

The following article was written by Matthew Mesibov, a Clinical Physical Therapist Specialist with Centrex Rehab. The article was originally published in the September 2013 issue of GeriNotes.


When asked to write an article about leadership for GeriNotes, I took a step back and thought about what I would want to read if I were the reader. As all engaging speakers and writers do, in my opinion, I thought I would write from experience. The hope is that it might serve as a path or example to someone reading this article who has yet to step up and lead, yet knows they would like to lead on some level. For those of us that are already leading, it is always good to reflect back on some of the more basic concepts as a way to ground oneself.

Why call this “Who Moved My Pizza?” Well, first, if you have never read the very quick read, Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson, you ought to! Coming out of a divorce some years ago, this book was a light bulb moment for me. It teaches one of the most critical lessons, to look objectively at what is not working for you, and change it. This is a great principle of leadership as well. It taught me to be honest with myself, learn from my errors, and adapt. The sole purpose was and is to correct you from the frustration of repeating the same mistake over and adapting a new and winning strategy. So why pizza? Well, as a recent arrival to the beautiful state of Minnesota from New Jersey, I soon learned they do not seem to make pizza the way I am used to. Believe me that if you are from the Northeast or Midatlantic, having to have pizza as if it is flatbread is somewhat disappointing to say the least! Enough said, let’s get on track with leadership.

What is leadership? According to the Webster online dictionary, one definition includes: “The quality of character and personality giving a person the ability to gain the confidence of and lead others.” I like this definition as it provides a lot of room to define a person’s character and personality and, therefore, what type of leader you can be. Let’s look at personality qualities by way of a do-it-yourself exercise. First think of two different people you have come across in positions of leadership. The first type of person is someone who you found was able to influence others, and the second is someone who had trouble influencing others. Under each type of leader, list 5 adjectives to describe that person. Now put your lists to the side, as we delve into other aspects of leadership, and we will return to this exercise later.

Leaders, both good and bad, have two attributes…influence and power. Failure of leadership happens when the leader is unable to influence others to “own the vision” or influence comes in various forms:

• the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command,

• the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways,

• the power to change or affect someone or something, or

• the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.


Power includes the following:

• the ability to influence others to perform, behave, or accomplish tasks; or

• a person or organization that has a lot of influence over other people or organizations.

In a nutshell, I believe successful leadership is not derived from job specific influence (ie, it is not dependent on a job title), rather it is situation specific (ie, when an event occurs, how you handle the situation and what kind of example are you to others).A natural question is, “how do I attain the power to influence?” My quickest answer is first, you must know yourself. Are you comfortable in your own skin? Know where your power comes from. Of course if I ended with that, it would be only part of an answer and a very short article. Next we need to understand what forms of power exist and how they impact the people that would follow you. Choosing your sources of power will define your ultimate success. As you read through the following power sources, write down which two types of power produce the most effective leader with long-term, committed followers.


1. Legitimate Power (Position dependant)

• Leader’s position in an organization

• Leader’s level of authority that is inherent in that position

• Being the supervisor, manager, or boss.


2. Reward Power

• Leader’s ability to give the staff something of value


Tangibles: salary, benefits, promotion

Intangibles: recognition, respect, special privileges3.


3. Coercive Power (Punishment)• Leader’s ability to take something of value away

Tangibles: no raise, loss of job
Intangibles: reprimand, loss of respect, embarrassment, loss of status


4. Expert Power

• Leader’s knowledge, skill, and expertise so that others have confidence in the leader’s ability

• The amount of power is related to the level of expertise


5. Personal Power

• Leader’s personal charisma and personal characteristics

• Relates to the likeability of the leader

• Relates to the leader’s emotional intelligence

When looking at these 5 types of power, we find that the least effective sources of power are Legitimate and Coercive. People are most willing to follow, and commit to following on a long-term basis, when a leader derives power from the Expert and the Personal power realms. The other realms generally will not create strong, longterm leadership.

Stephen Covey surveyed 54,000 people about characteristics of an effective leader and found the top answers to be:

1. Integrity (Personal Power)

2. Communication (Personal Power)

3. People Orientation (Personal Power)

4. Vision (Expert Power)

5. Caring (Personal Power)

Now look back at your adjectives list of two types of leaders. You should be able to start connecting the dots as to why you see one person as a more effective leader than the other.

The grooming and development of a strong leader is a life-long endeavor. One must be willing to be proactive, have the strength to stick with achieving the vision while being cognizant of where one derives power from. In my travels, I once asked a successful restaurant franchisee, who earlier on in his career was on the brink of bankruptcy, what lead to his success. He answered, “No matter what, I never took my eye off the goal.” In other words, you can’t let yourself become a victim of the road bumps that happen now. Rather, keep working towards the destination that you set for yourself.

Another exercise in self-awareness that has helped me is coming to understand my communication style, and effectively assessing the style of others. The tool that I have used most frequently is the DISC profile (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment). I am aware of one leader who has a DISC profile for all of his direct reports. When having face-to-face meetings, he will quickly refer to the profile to make sure his communication style adapts to his employee’s style. He finds this ensures the employee is engaged in the conversation and fully receives the communication.

Now that we have discussed some of the building blocks of being an effective leader, it is time to set your wheels in motion. Knowledge is power, but it means nothing if you do not apply and experience it. How will you step up to leadership roles?

• Will it be clinically, on a day-today basis, as you choose to provide evidence-based services and practice with integrity?

• Will you seek out a form of leadership training within the APTA structure?

-HPA: The catalyst section has leadership trainings through the institute for Leadership in Physical Therapy Leadership (http://www.aptahpa.org/)

• Will you step up and volunteer within the APTA framework?

-Volunteer for the APTA Section on Geriatrics (http://www.geriatricspt.org/volunteering/index.cfm)

-Volunteer for your APTA chapter

-Sign up on the APTA “Volunteer Interest Profile” (http://www.apta.org/VolunteerGroups/)

In closing, I would like to share some of myself and my leadership journey. I had to first look within myself during a darker period of my life in order to get comfortable in my skin. It was not an overnight process, and is one that is ongoing. I then chose to step up at an APTA chapter meeting and say, “here are my skill sets and interests; is there a place for me to volunteer and help?” I met people who were willing to give me a chance and mentor me along the way. I mentored others and learned from my mentees as much and more than I gave. Having said that, I offer myself up as someone you can reach out to if you ever want to have a conversation about yourself and leadership. My contact information is available at the APTA member listings page and with this article.


In the meantime, I have not found the pizza of the southern NJ area but that is OK, I enjoyed Walleye fish for the first time.


Wishing you a successful leadership journey!


1. Kummer AW. The Art of Influencing Others (Without Twisting Any Arms!). ASHA Health Care & Business Institute, April 27, 2013, Orlando, FL.

2. Johnson J, Demand Media. 5 Types of Power in Businesses. Houston Chronicle. smallbusiness.chron.com/5-types-powerbusinesses-18221.html. Accessed August 15, 2013.

3. Covey S. The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness To Greatness. Free Press; 2004.M


Matthew Mesibov is a Clinical Physical Therapist Specialist with Centrex Rehab headquartered in Minneapolis, MN where he serves as a mentor to Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants. Matt has served in various leadership roles of APTA NJ, is a member of the LAMP, and Government Affairs and Practice Committees of the “HPA: The Catalyst” Section of APTA, and serves on the APTA Task Force for an Alternative Payment System (Physical Therapy Payment & Classification System).