Authentic leadership in the pharmaceutical industry

I’ve written a few times previously on authentic leadership but this time I wanted to put a focus on the pharmaceutical industry as it’s an industry I’ve a lot of experience in. So as a recap, authentic leadership, in summary, means building a solid and real foundation for leadership based on honest relationships…based on honesty and ethics, as well as many other facets.

What does an authentic leader look like, sound like? Well no one size fits all but some general concepts:

  • Positive
  • Honest
  • Ethical
  • Foster openness
  • Integrity
  • Good listeners
  • Have a clear vision
  • Value input and ideas from others

And a key attribute is consistency – consistency in behaviours. That promotes trust and motivation as you know that the person in front of you is not wearing a mask or faking it.

These attributes can be quite daunting for new leaders and managers – as sometimes we may feel we need to have all the answers and that’s just not the case today in the world of globalisation, social media and a lot of movement of employees (i.e. people do not often stay in a job for life, work across different platforms, geographies and often wish to retain their own identity within a company)

Why do I think this is important in the pharmaceutical industry?

It’s important to promote motivation and success of yourself and your teams in many industries but I always come back to the fact that well one day we will all be a patient, and we all know a patient. It’s hard to find someone who has not been hit by an illness or disease, or has a friend or family member who has been through illness and/or injury. That seems to me, to be to be a very humbling thought.

Even, as a pharmaceutical company, our access to patient dialogue is highly regulated and somewhat restricted because of that – which means we often don’t get to engage with our ultimate ‘end user’ or ‘customer’ –  this is where authenticity really comes into play as we are dealing in an emotional area, and to my mind, the best companies are the ones who are finding ways to compliantly engage with patients and truly seek out dialogue, feedback and experiences to help shape not just treatments but supporting services. Not lip service – but true face-to-face feedback and engagement.  With real people with major challenges facing them.

We are in an extremely cost constrained environment – where affordability is key, where public money is used to fund healthcare, and where there are many competing health concerns – obesity, heart disease, with an ageing population. Therefore we have to really believe in the treatments being promoted – the data and evidence must stack up – so authenticity and ethics in how that presented is key.

Yes the science is critical and important – and the breakthroughs recently made in targetted breakthroughs which are turning acute conditions to chronic conditions, is truly staggering. With each new discovery comes another one.

Yes leading the team and delivering results is important to fuel future developments – and authenticity means you will get critical feedback, participation, buy-in and support for your means you can relax and be your true self at work and not feel like you need to put on a mask. People always pick up on inconsistent behaviours, okay we all have a ‘bad day’ now and again but we are often dealing with very emotional areas, so a certain level of authentic compassion must be important to be able to best serve patients and healthcare professionals.

But let’s keep the person involved in the treatment front of mind. Let’s think about that to ensure we are delivering the best for patients, in the best way for what the patient is going through. Let’s understand what we mean by being patient-centred to ensure we are all working together to make improvements to patients’ lives, and those of their families.

I’m lucky I’ve seen many examples of this in my career in the industry – and I have witnessed first-hand how disappointed employees seem to be if the patient aspect is neglected, and how motivated employees are to see that the company puts the patient at the centre. I’m glad to see more and more organisations taking a more sustained and focused patient-centred approach. Long may this continue and develop to support the individual needs and values of the individual, and those closest to them. If we do this, then we are being in authentic in developing and promoting medicines knowing it’s based on real need, with patient input throughout development.

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