Leadership Development Blog

Subscribe to our blog...it's simple!

The Top 4 Leadership Skills Necessary in Pharma

Posted by Rick Lepsinger January 30, 2019

pharma leadership

The pharma industry is expected to grow at nearly six percent annually over the next few years, making it one of the most dynamic industries in the world. Change is rapidly becoming the norm, not the exception. More than ever, the industry needs agile leaders who can navigate disruptions in the status quo and implement the key changes needed to allocate resources effectively, drive engagement, secure stakeholder commitment, and maintain productive operations.

Agile leaders are an especially good match for the industry. Their ability to connect, adapt, and deliver in the face of challenges is critically important and can help them to set their organizations on a path to sustainable success.

Situational Awareness

Between a dizzying array of mergers/acquisitions and ongoing changes in healthcare regulations around the world, leaders in the pharma industry need to be able to understand how external and internal events might impact their company’s performance. This goes beyond simply being aware of the changes themselves to include the potential human impacts, such as how they might affect employee engagement or morale.

Effective agile leaders possess the necessary skills to identify shifting dynamics and adapt quickly in order to overcome challenges, reimagine strategic direction, and propel innovation. This flexibility is one of the critical leadership skills in pharma. The changes resulting from market globalization and technological developments show no signs of slowing in the future, so pharma leaders need to stay on top of existing trends and determine when their companies need to respond accordingly.

Systems Thinking

The world’s leading pharma companies are large, complex, organizations. With operations spread across multiple functions, departments or subsidiaries, it can sometimes be difficult to know how these components interact with one another. A change in one part of the organization can have ripple effects throughout the company, often leading to unintended consequences in seemingly unrelated sectors. Leaders who fail to account for this interconnectedness run the risk of creating a new set of problems when trying to implement solutions elsewhere.

To be successful, agile leaders in the pharma industry need to excel at systems thinking, or the holistic view of how the components of a complex organization interact. This ability allows them to identify the connections between different elements of their organization. Pharma companies face very complex problems, and there’s rarely a single cause that’s easily remedied with a simple fix. In fact, previous attempts to address the issue might well have contributed to making it worse or led to problems in other areas. Looking at the organization as a set of interrelated systems helps agile leaders to develop more effective solutions that minimize negative consequences.

Ability to Balance Competing Demands

Pharma companies tend to have big goals. This is partly a byproduct of their size and resources, though even smaller startups may set ambitious goals that could potentially make a difference in the lives of millions. But while it’s easy to set a big goal, taking the necessary, day-to-day steps to achieve it can be much more difficult. Short-term problems arise along with unforeseen circumstances, drawing resources and attention away from key organizational initiatives.

An effective agile leader has the ability to balance competing demands, balancing the demands of the moment against the needs of the future. They never lose sight of the company’s overriding mission, making ongoing adjustments with a combination of careful planning, team management, and patience to keep their teams productive, efficient, and engaged. This ability allows agile pharma leaders to deliver even in the face of problems or demanding change initiatives.


With all the “big picture” challenges facing pharma companies, it might seem strange for leaders to focus on their own emotions, behaviors, and motivations, but having a strong sense of self-awareness makes it easier to build meaningful connections within the workplace. These connections are critically important for agile leaders to be able to inspire, influence, and foster collaborative environments. Their actions and behaviors also set the tone for organizations and establish the credibility they need to utilize influencing strategies effectively.

Self-awareness also helps pharma leaders identify trends and biases in their own decision making. When they understand how they react to certain situations, they can make accommodations and implement personal strategies that lead to better decisions and set a good example for others. As pharma organizations do more business around the world and deal with international partners and counterparts, these leaders need to have a good sense of how they react under pressure in order to lead their teams effectively and put their best foot forward on behalf of the organization. Comprehensive assessment programs can help pharma leaders to enhance their self-awareness throughout the development process.

As the pharma industry continues to go through a period of unprecedented change, the role and impact of agile leaders will only become more important. By leveraging their ability to connect, adapt, and deliver, agile leaders can help guide their organizations into the future and ensure that they are well-equipped to deal with the challenges they may encounter.

flexible leadership webinar

Topics: agile leadership, flexible leadership, pharma

Leave a Comment

Influencing With Impact Toolkit 2019 Sidebar CTA