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As Mark Twain once noted, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” In a similar vein, people often talk about leadership, but they rarely stop to define what they mean.
One of the definitions offered by Webster’s Dictionary for leadership is, “the power or ability to lead other people.” Certainly, that’s a good starting point but begs further development.
For one thing, while leadership may involve management, it is not the same. A manager is someone who focuses on developing and following processes; their role is generally more one of stewardship. Leadership, which of course needs to include the elements of management, is different — it is a more entrepreneurial and imagination-driven activity. Many managers are also leaders, of course, but because leadership is so important it is worth thinking more about what it is as a separate phenomenon.
Justice Stewart Potter’s famous, “I know it when I see it” statement can seem appropriate when seeking to define leadership, since an exact definition can be hard to provide. But it is safe to say that leadership stands apart from management in its effect on others. Those who have leadership traits can often influence others to accomplish goals that they, individually, would not otherwise achieve. Leaders provide vision and spark; they can make the difference between good and great, between mundane performance and true innovation. They break barriers, think outside the box, and initiate real change. And, they unleash the creative potential of others.
Sometimes leaders risk their careers for an idea. John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” reminded us of the many Americans in history who took difficult or dangerous stances on an issue. Sometimes a business or institutional leader is called to do the same thing. Stopping a process that could be dangerous, reorienting an enterprise toward a new challenge, rejecting an injustice, or calling forth heroic effort from a team — these are all the actions of a leader. How is the leadership in your organization — what leadership qualities do you embrace or demonstrate?
As AHM continues to strive for excellence in our technology and services, our leadership team continues to look across our organization, turn over every stone to ensure we are not settling for delivering the status quo. Since joining AHM in March of this year, the philosophy of this company is to not be a part of the problem, but to be a part of the solution for our clients. It is easy to settle for the status quo — going against the grain and looking for more isn’t always easy — but it is usually worth it!
Leaders can be popular, admired, or even charismatic. But not always. Sometimes doing the right thing — or the challenging thing — is unpopular or difficult. Having the courage to recognize that a line of business is reaching the end of its growth potential and it is time to move in a new direction; recognizing and finding a way to deal with a dangerous product…These are not easy things. And they are classic “hot potatoes” that most people in an organization would rather avoid. Leaders don’t.
The ability to lead can be taught and improved but it also ties closely to an individual’s own motivations and capabilities. Sometimes it seems to take someone with special talents and outlook to “grasp the nettle” and do the things that are most difficult.
In an era that recognizes the great value of teamwork and consensus, leaders sometimes seem to be swimming against the current. They can even seem disruptive. However, great leaders know how to adapt and inspire; they aren’t threatened by a consensus, merely challenged to better engage with others.
In short, leadership is something organizations need if they are to retain flexibility, adapt to changing times, and find new solutions to emerging problems. Fortunately, when we look at the industry we serve, we see many leaders, some at senior levels and some still rising through the ranks. And that bodes well for the field and, ultimately, for the public at large. Leadership will help to ensure more and better achievements from the Life Sciences Industry and that will lead to a better and more fulfilling life for each of us.
At AHM we are committed to success and the success of our customers. We believe there are many ingredients that comprise leadership — too many to reflect in just one blog. If you have comments, thoughts, anecdotes to share on the topic of leadership, we would love to hear from you. This is Part I in our Leadership series so continue to follow us.
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.