Leadership Series Part 1b: Be the leader others choose to follow

The world needs leaders. As noted in a previous blog, leaders are people who break barriers, think outside the box, initiate real change…and unleash the creative potential of others.

There are few areas of human activity where those capabilities are not in short supply. But how do people become leaders? Is it an evolutionary process with some kind of natural selection involved? Perhaps a century ago it was still often imagined that certain people were naturally leaders and others were not. But time has shown that almost anyone can become a leader. In both World Wars, for instance, the American military, which needed to suddenly greatly expand its forces learned to look for leadership potential and then molded that potential into the real thing through intensive training.

Today, a mixture of training, mentoring, and some personal chemistry brings many more people into leadership roles. But to again quote from an old US Navy officer’s training guide, to lead you must first learn to follow. In other words, leaders need to understand the organization and the value of each role within that organization. They must understand the value of each person and something about their motivations. Leadership isn’t about personal aggrandizement, it is about understanding challenges, humans and their skills and motivations, and grasping how to motivate, control and coordinate toward a goal.

In the Life Science industry we have challenges and many potential rewards — as individuals and in terms of our impact on society. Obviously, the lives of many individuals are impacted through the actions and accomplishments of healthcare companies — as well as through the actions that aren’t taken. Whether one chooses to be a leader or a follower in any given situation can make a big difference in terms of the outcomes. Knowing when it is appropriate (or valuable) to be a leader or a follower, can be vital to one’s organization!

Consider, for example, what the world would be like if any of us were satisfied with simply accepting the status quo. In fact, most progress has involved moving past current practice and finding something better.

But knowing what change to champion and when isn’t simple. The life sciences industry is a dynamic one dealing with multiple variables. As varied as the famously changeable weather in New England! Those industry variables include, among others, our fellow human beings (within and beyond the industry), fundamental developments in science, and government policies.

Without input of the right kind, without the addition of energy or force — the element that the leader provides — even very bright and motivated people can end up producing only mediocre results. In Life Sciences, as elsewhere, brilliant ideas alone are not enough. Leaders are the people who turn brilliant ideas into brilliant results.

A strong leader is not afraid to challenge the status quo or to reach beyond organizational walls to help solve a problem — industry wide. For example, AHM is finalizing a recent alliance with another partner who is assisting us in solving complex problems. Consolidation of systems, lower cost to our clients and a better user experience are our goals in exceeding the regulatory requirements of transfers of value, compliance with HCP interactions and more.

If you aspire to be a leader, nothing can be more helpful than to have a role model or mentor. And, when you yourself begin to lead, be sure to be the kind of person who is worthy of being followed; and remember that following is an art that must be learned, too.

Put another way, just because you are ready to lead, doesn’t mean others are ready to follow. For someone like Napoleon, a dashing reputation and an impassioned speech was enough to turn an army sent to arrest him into an army that was once again his instrument. Most leaders need to spend more time than that to create followers but the point is the same. One cannot take people and their commitment for granted. Tune in your organization and then get them to tune in you.

Be the leader who is worthy of followership and it will be yours. The Life Sciences industry is full of opportunities to make a difference.

 

Contributed by:


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.

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