Contrary to popular belief, leadership has little to do with your job title, the resources at your disposal, or your fearless, take-charge attitude. It has nothing to do with your background, either. Leadership does not stem from power or authority, although these are both by-products of the role.
What makes a great leader?
True leaders are social influencers who unite others in the pursuit of a common goal. They use their skills to maximize the efforts of their followers. Having great ideas will only take you so far if you cannot inspire people to act on them.
An Executive doesn’t become a leader the moment they get a corner office. That happens when they develop the vision and insights needed to take the organisation to the next level. They know when to seize an opportunity, and rally their team to achieve operational goals and objectives.
Here are the six leadership qualities all Life Science Senior Managers and Executives should master before they assume a position of responsibility:
- Strategic Vision
- Leading by Example
- Seeking Advice
- Spotting and Retaining Talent
Keep reading as we explore these qualities in further detail.
What sets the best leaders apart is their ability to translate their strategic vision into goals and objectives.
A strategic and visionary leader knows how to find the balance between dreaming and doing. Before acting on an idea, they perform thorough due diligence. This includes reviewing industry trends, analysing data, and making predictions — all to ensure facts guide their decision-making. If there are deficiencies in a plan, leaders should be in an informed position to recognise issues and act early, before they derail a vital goal.
Leaders with strategic vision are also inspirational. While they make decisions and execute strategy, they also arouse enthusiasm and foster loyalty by motivating and encouraging their employees. Those who lack strategic vision and the ability to motivate others cannot be effective leaders.
Excellent communication and outstanding leadership go hand in hand.
To be a great leader, one must be able to communicate clearly, express ideas in a way that the listener understands, and be able to share the same information with different audiences.
When you pay close attention to what others say, it fosters respect, trust, and open communication. Listening also gives you a clear understanding of the other person’s knowledge and perspective, which can prove invaluable. Great leaders uncover details and facts others typically miss, purely because they listen to those around them.
Are Open and Honest
When you share successes and failures with your team, you teach them how the organisation defines victory and defeat. Remember: success is a team effort, not yours alone. It gives your employees a sense of belonging, which fosters loyalty and can boost employee well being, engagement, and retainment.
Provide Constructive Feedback
When addressing any deficiencies in an employee’s performance, great leaders build the person up instead of breaking them down. They use these opportunities to hone their communication skills, allowing them to provide better instruction if and when similar situations arise in the future.
Understand Body Language
Where others fidget and lower their gaze, great leaders embody confidence by standing tall and maintaining eye contact. They know their influence is not just determined by what they say, but how they say it.
Lead by Example
Do as I say, not as I do is the mark of a poor leader.
One of the strongest leadership qualities is the willingness to work in the trenches alongside everyone else. It builds trust, camaraderie, and rapport with your team while developing your skills and knowledge.
You will never hear a successful leader utter, “I can do it better than anyone else.”
While a healthy ego is beneficial, great leaders understand they don’t have the qualifications, skills, or time to master every role in a project. This is especially true in industries as complicated and highly regulated as Life Sciences. Instead, they empower their teams by delegating projects and tasks to those most able to deliver.
When you delegate, you demonstrate trust in your team. As a leader, you have the morale and ethical responsibility to help your employees grow and develop. Delegation is one way of providing your employees and future leaders with an opportunity to grow and improve, without feeling out of their depth.
Many Executives struggle with the concept of delegating. They understand how important it is, but they can’t bring themselves to relinquish control or worse… They micromanage.
With the right training, your people can take on more complex tasks, and you create an atmosphere of trust that sets the tone for the workplace. The key is to this leadership enlightenment is to delegate appropriately. This means that you:
- Take the bigger picture into account.
- Assign tasks to those with the right skill sets.
- Manage their commitments to ensure efficiency.
One final point on this matter. Employees work best on activities and tasks they enjoy doing. While most roles involve some form of menial tasks, find out which tasks your team enjoy, and which they don’t. Where possible, you can reduce the burden of menial tasks by assigning them enjoyable ones.
Leading by Example
There’s an old saying that goes along the lines of “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Genuine leaders embody this philosophy in the workplace by reflecting and embodying the behaviours they want to see in their employees. For example, they:
- Champion honesty and integrity by being forthright and genuine in their dealing with team members and colleagues.
- Getting stuck in with menial tasks and not expecting employees to do tasks they wouldn’t be prepared to do.
- Live their organisational values and demonstrating them in every activity in which they partake.
This is further reinforced by a 2016 study by the Harvard Business Review. The study found “high ethical and moral” standards to be the top-rated leadership trait. This quality instils a safe and trusting company culture in which employees can learn and thrive. This, in turn, can increase engagement and retainment.
The opposite of leading by example are those who subscribe to the “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. This hypocritical attitude is disastrous for employee morale. Successful leaders in the Life Sciences have a responsibility to treat their team fairly and with dignity.
One of the most important leadership qualities is admitting you don’t know everything. No matter how long you have been working in Life Sciences, technology and research breakthroughs are happening so rapidly that you may find you don’t know how to respond to a situation.
When this happens, seek impartial advice. This should be a person whose opinion you trust, but isn’t invested in the outcome. They may have been in a similar situation or are subject experts and can present you with the information you need to generate action. If no one you know fits this brief, consider a financial adviser.
Given the speed of change, it is essential to invest in training — both for yourself and your team. Encouraging life-long learning within your department can prevent your employees from stagnating professionally. Moreover, by challenging yourself to learn too, you are showing that you’re equally committed to professional excellence.
If you encounter a situation and aren’t sure how to proceed, try asking your team for their thoughts and opinions. They’re more likely to feel heard and appreciated.
However, no matter who you approach, always seek the truth. Leaders are required to make critical decisions that affect the entire organisation, so you need an accurate basis for doing so.
Spotting and Retaining Talent
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but never forget that your Life Science organisation is only as successful as its employees.
Acclaimed leaders who grew successful organisation did so by investing in talented workers and earning their loyalty. They surrounded themselves with people who lived the organisational values and strove to push the goal posts at every opportunity. Ultimately, they ensured the organisation achieved it’s goals and objectives while furthering Life Science.
Once you have spotted and recruited a good employee, guide them in their new role. Give them the support and resources they need to meet – and exceed – your expectations. With training and coaching always available, you ensure your team stays ahead of the evolving Life Sciences.
Great leaders understand the true cost of hiring and onboarding new employees, so ensuring their people are content and engaged is a top priority. They also understand that terminating a poor management-level employee within 2.5 years of hiring, they stand to lose 10x the cost of the employees’ salary — excluding hiring costs!
Finally, leaders never neglect their leadership pipeline! Leaders can be found at all levels within your Life Science organisation, it’s important to identify them. Once identified, you can develop their leadership skills early on. The knowledge transfer from mentoring programs builds a robust leadership pipeline, providing internal future candidates.
Promoting internally slashes your hiring costs and ensures less time and effort is spent bringing the employee up to speed.
As a Senior Manager or Executive in the Life Sciences industry, you have a range of essential responsibilities. Top-quality leadership ensures growth and prosperity. When you master the six leadership qualities in this article, you will inspire your employees, achieve results, and make it possible for your company to bloom.
For more career advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life science industry:
* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.