The Life Sciences industry is challenging, ever changing, and complex — with many moving parts — and multiple stakeholders with diverse demands. To survive, thrive and meet the needs of clients, agencies, like AHM have to be agile and respond quickly. Success depends on people taking the initiative and being smart — and sometimes taking a leap of faith into the unknown.
Most of the time, those leaps are fortuitous and depend on the knowledge and confidence of up-and-coming innovators — when they are given some freedom of action. But organizations aren’t always able to support and develop those people. A famous general once observed, “Soldiers win battles; generals get the credit.” Sadly, in business and in many other organizations, that too often summarizes how things work. When success bubbles up from the below, credit flows up the chain of command. When things go wrong, blame flows down. The recent biographical film depiction of Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, is rife with examples that fit this mold. But it is not the only way.
There are leaders who make a point of turning the formula on its head, empowering and crediting their subordinates and then quietly basking in the glow of shared success. No less an authority on getting things done than the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, noted, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
In fact, giving credit can be one of the techniques for helping to uncover and encourage individuals with leadership potential; giving them a sense of their own strengths and potential that may have been lacking. It is particularly important in a field like Life Sciences where qualities such as judgement and innovation are valued.
The Life Sciences industry requires a broad spectrum of subject matter experts (SME) ranging from physicians, to government regulators, technology experts and more, all of whom must exhibit those kinds of skills and traits. Leaders need to be able to take that leap of faith and lean on the SMEs quite often. Because of these SMEs providing their experiences, education and methodologies, the organization can prosper and, if it does so, these SMEs should get the credit they deserve.
Giving credit isn’t always easy. An executive is often acutely aware of others’ faults and failings and may also have made a substantial contribution to an achievement herself or himself. When you are in charge, it can seem natural to take all the credit. But deflecting some of that credit toward others is actually more than just “playing nice” — it is a strategic habit that aims to strengthen initiative and build confidence and competence in others. Regarding blame, as Tobias states in a Harvard Business Review article, “A leader who spreads the blame, who fails to accept that he or she is ultimately the one in charge, increases the insecurity of their people and lessens the likelihood that they’ll take ownership of initiatives.”1 In other words, leaders can create dream subordinates, willing and able to take on responsibility, when they share credit as much as they may be inclined to share blame.
Of course, giving credit when it isn’t due is nothing more than a grown up version of relentlessly praising children — sometimes to their detriment. Successful praisers do so when they have a clear view of the tasks at hand and can fairly assess the results. Along the way they may impart strategic advice or acknowledge the need for more resources to help get a task accomplished. In other words, they expect much but they don’t demand miracles.
Is it a tall order? Yes. Leaders have full plates, too. And what leader doesn’t want to be recognized for his or her own accomplishments? The crucial difference is that leaders who give and share credit seem able to recognize, objectively, what is required to succeed (the human and material factors), and then insert themselves only as needed in order to ensure success. In the long-run they are more likely to create outstanding and capable new leaders, able to amplifying an organization’s successes.
Bernard M. Gordon, a serial entrepreneur in the medical devices arena (spanning from pioneer fetal heart monitors in the 1950s and 1960s to recently developed portable CT scanners) has managed to run several successful businesses and amass a sizeable fortune as well as a long list of patents. However, while accumulating praise and credit for himself, he also endlessly acknowledges key team members for the successes of his businesses. In an interview several years ago referring to his own role, he added, “A leader is someone who causes something to happen that wouldn’t have happened if he [sic] wasn’t there.” That can include turning a corporate wallflower into a successful leader.
Life Science leaders, in particular, must have the vision to see worthy goals, the sensitivity to spot strengths (actual and potential) in others, and the determination and drive to help develop the talents of others. A key to the leader’s role is being both cheerleader and orchestrator and giving credit is a key part of that process.
Lisa Keilty, Global VP of Compliance and Strategic Solutions, AHM
Lisa joined AHM after serving as founder of the Compliance Consulting firm PMC2 and spending over 26 years in the life sciences and meeting management industry. Leading such organizations as Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb and Biogen Idec through numerous international projects, financial transparency and reporting requirements, Lisa’s industry expertise has saved Life Sciences and Meeting Management organizations over 30 million dollars. As a member of the Business Development team, Lisa’s primary focus will be Thought Leadership,Demand Generation and Solution Design.