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Navigating leadership in the pharmaceutical industry

Navigating leadership in the pharmaceutical industry
Published: July 24, 2020
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The biotech pharma industry is a relentlessly changing one, requiring leaders to navigate through a fast-moving digital evolution while overcoming increasingly complex geopolitical and economic hurdles. As experts in leadership development for the past 40 years, Impact partners with many global clients in this space, helping to anticipate and overcome these challenges through strategic acts of leadership.

Here, we share some of our consultants’ recent insights on how to overcome today’s leadership challenges, the importance of people development as future competitive advantage, and organizational agility as a cornerstone for sustained success in 2021.

Purposeful innovation

The biotech pharma industry relies heavily on high-volume products that demand a future-focused investment in R&D. Now more than ever, innovation, or the ability to liberate innovation, has become mission critical. It’s an exhausting race to constantly uncover or invent the ‘next new thing’ and bring it to market, often only to find that the ‘low-hanging’ fruit has already been picked. We are seeing more of our global clients narrow their focus to drive and sustain a unified purpose around tackling one or two complex patient-centric innovations that make a difference and a positive impact for a particular community or need.

Consultative services and increased collaborations

Organizations are experiencing disruption like never before. Even before the pandemic, the pharma industry was seeing diminished returns on face-to-face interactions with healthcare providers. Now it is even more critical to understand how to engage and consult to adjacent markets that impact their organization’s success. In a nutshell, it’s about learning how to establish new and lasting collaborative networks ­– going beyond ‘just the medicine’ to broker offerings from a multi-skills, multi-knowledge platform, while working more closely with stakeholders to include regulators, payers and service providers.

Gaining competitive advantage through talent development and increased leadership agility

Never before has agility been so critical to success. Having team members from top to bottom who are able to pivot quickly, think ahead, problem-find and -solve, raise collective intelligence, and collaborate seamlessly is itself a built-to-last organizational advantage. Pharma companies should now be even more focused on talent and talent development, talent pipeline, Hi-Po development, succession planning, and ready-now leadership. But, there is a cost to the post-pandemic trauma that has been sustained. Any development that an organization invests in now had better be immediately relevant and applicable in the flow of work. Everyone is tired and in recovery from COVID-19 ­– whether physically from having the virus or emotionally from self-isolating and social distancing. Time and capacity are on overload and this means we need to keep it simple and impactful.

Rising to the challenge through moral leadership action

Moral leadership means that leaders must find ways to demonstrate a high degree of caring and humanity, as well as achieving commercial success for the company. Balancing these sometimes incongruent perspectives requires careful reflection on each leader’s drivers, values and motivations. Is it in the best interest of the patient or are you just trying to hit your numbers? How are your team members’ needs, and those of stakeholders throughout the system, served by adopting a new mandate or strategic initiative? We are seeing that it is even harder in these post-pandemic times to introduce renewed leadership vision without first washing it through a filter of the organization’s values, aligned to a deep sense of moral purpose. Living outside the comfort zone is now the norm and having a north star to guide swift decision-making will be a differentiator for any leader in this industry.

Find out more about our work in the Pharmaceutical industry