leadership coaching pharmaceuticals

The challenges of leading in pharmaceuticals

The pharmaceuticals industry is a very challenging sector, and whilst being a leader in any sector presents significant challenges, when you consider the pharmaceuticals industry, the issues faced have a greater degree of complexity.

The industry is one that experiences momentous changes at times. These come from more recently – responding to the pandemic, market access challenges, industry regulation, embracing digital solutions, and competitiveness in the pipeline, and more advanced treatments – in the arena of precision medicine. Managing such momentous change is, perhaps, one of the greatest challenges posed to any leader.

The pharmaceuticals industry is facing a whole host of noteworthy challenges right now. There are economies across the globe that are struggling, there are reduced budgets to contend with, and managing and growing a pipeline in an industry under immense scrutiny from all angles!. These challenges could be transferred to any sector, and it would still be a bold ask to expect the most accomplished leadership team to overcome them.

So, what is the answer to these challenges?
How can pharmaceuticals companies contend with a rapidly evolving landscape?
What is needed to see companies succeed in a new era?
The answer lies in leadership.

This is an industry analysing the qualities it needs to see from its leaders, so that it can effectively face the current challenges. 

What should a modern pharmaceuticals leader look like?

There may well be alternative views of what a holistic pharmaceutical leader should look like in this new, and challenging, age.

In my view, a leader here needs to be able to motivate and energise their team to co-create and take their own initiative. It should not be the case that members of staff are purely working for their leader in terms of the management structure.  

A true leader sees people working for them in a wholehearted manner that goes beyond the formal requirements of a role. Today we are in an era where conscious leadership comes into play. For some of us, it has done for a while but this about thinking ‘we’ not just ‘me’ – be that for internal or external audiences. 

There are differences between skills and qualities. While both can be taught, and acquired (contrary to popular belief), there are some who seem to innately possess the qualities that go into making an effective leader. The key qualities needed include:

  • Being ethical – there is never any compromise when it comes to making the right decisions and taking the right actions
  • An effective pharmaceutical leader is a true visionary 
  • Has the ability to drive performance
  • Is respectful and open-minded
  • Has a degree of humility 
  • The ability to display empathy 
  • The ability to actively listen
  • Shows resilience 
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Walks the walk and talks the talk

What has changed with being a pharmaceuticals leader?

The industry is one that is continually evolving and, bringing with it, new challenges. The time was once where demonstrating exceptional technical skills would be enough to secure top positions and ensure a long-lived career. This has now changed. While there have always been financial targets and budgets to manage, companies are now fully aware of the need to effectively lead a team

No one wants to talk about failure, but the reality is that failing to lead a team has devastating consequences. If you can’t manage change, if you can’t take a team with you, and if you can’t achieve buy-in, then you are left with an organisation that is not fit for purpose

Key issues that see pharmaceutical leaders failing, despite their technical expertise, include:

  • Issues arising from interpersonal relationships
  • A failure to achieve when it comes to business objectives
  • Lacking the ability to build a team
  • Lacking the ability to lead a team
  • An inability to lead, and implement, change

Although these factors all impact a company’s performance, it is interesting to note that just one of these is directly linked to financial outcomes: the rest are all about people. Gone are the days when employees and team members can be taken for granted.

The modern approach to leadership sees a need to nurture talent and to ensure that all employees don’t view their roles as merely a way to pay their bills and fund their lifestyle. 

A move towards team working

It was not unheard of for those in the pharmaceutical industry to operate in isolation to some degree. They would be working within some kind of vacuum.

There has been a shift in recent times and companies are focusing more and more on teamwork. This sees departmental and multifunctional teams working to maximise performance. The only way that the industry can see this being successful is through effective leadership. Agility is key here to navigate complex projects and structures.

There will be resistance to such change. It is down to leaders to implement this. It is down to leaders to get their teams and side, and it is down to leaders to ensure that they inspire. 

An in-depth understanding of effective leadership brings major benefits to a company. It also sees an individual becoming valuable to a company with skills that are fully transferable to a multitude of sectors.

Contact me to book a free consultation on any of these topics. 

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