7 Easy Ways To Become A Better Life Science Leader This Year
February 22, 2017
Leading life science teams can throw up certain challenges, particularly if you’re not a dynamic, type-A personality who people naturally look to for leadership.
Truth is: that doesn’t matter.
You don’t need to be a wildly dynamic, charismatic, gung-ho person to be an exceptional leader. In fact, if you have introverts in your team that approach may well be counter-productive! What you need to succeed as a life science leader is a considered, communicative and natural approach: one which will send the message to your team that you’re on the team’s side and that there are team goals to get excited about.
1. Remove ego from the equation. As a manager of a team of experts, you’ll need to lead, motivate, and even discipline highly intelligent and accomplished individuals who may not accept your counsel easily at first, particularly if (as is often the case) their specialist knowledge outstrips yours.
Remember, your role as leader is not to show your own brilliance, but to support and encourage theirs. This is the case across all life sciences departments, whether you’re leading a team of scientists, lab technicians, or pharmaceutical salespeople. If you’re not an expert in every aspect of your team’s work, be upfront about that, explaining that your role is to facilitate their success rather than be able to do their job as well as they do. (What would be the point in that?)
2. Listen like you’ve never listened before. This is the most powerful weapon in the leadership arsenal, and the best leaders listen more than they talk. Effective listening not only alerts you to possible opportunities and issues you might have missed, but it also makes your team members feel like their voices are heard and valued. There is no better building block to a high performing team than good communication.
3. Bring the team together. Extroverts will need no encouragement but introverted employees will often display a preference to work alone, which can stifle collaboration and morale within the team if allowed to progress too far. Be cognisant and accepting of natural work-style preferences, but also be sure to bring the team together regularly for meetings and collaborative efforts, or you’ll soon find that you’re running a team of individuals all working to their own tune.
4. Learn how to praise, give feedback, and offer help to different personality types. Where an extrovert will generally love the idea of being praised in front of a big group of people, an introvert would shudder at the same. Praise introverts in private with a quiet word of thanks. All feedback should also be given in private— this applies to all employees, not just introverts!
Where extroverts tend to respond actively to an open offer of help such as ‘my door is always open’, introverts are often reluctant to seek out help, so drop by regularly and casually offer your assistance (although if they look like they have a handle on it, let them get on with it!) Show a willingness to help, but be very wary of any micro-managing tendencies that you have.
5. Be your authentic self. Showing your vulnerabilities, admitting mistakes and talking about life outside work may seem like admitting weakness, but authenticity is a quality that draws a team together and builds mutual trust. In a team with an authentic leader, mistakes are confessed to rather than hidden, and the team are loyal to the leader. Showing your human side is a powerful leadership quality.
6. Set big, great goals. The best leaders know how to set goals in a way that makes everyone want to chase them down. When discussing team goals, bring everyone together and paint a picture of success- one which they can see themselves contributing to and can get excited about doing their part.
Use examples and case studies of other teams or companies who have achieved greatness (it doesn’t have to be within life science, it can just as easily be a sports team) to make them believe the goal can be reached and stir their spirit of competitiveness. When you’re doling out dull tasks or seemingly unrelated projects, always frame them in relation to the team’s big goal. ‘We have to do this mundane task because until it’s done X can’t move on to collating the results’ etc.
7. Bring your team in on the big issues. Nothing consolidates a team more than a challenge- as long as issues are discussed with transparency and a solutions-focussed mindset. Bring the team together to honestly discuss issues, ask for their opinions, and always keep an upbeat attitude that a solution will be reached. The alternative is to hide problems, which everyone senses on some level, causing a wedge of distrust to form between the team members and management.
People aren’t born great leaders; it’s something you learn over time. If you can incorporate these steps into your leadership style, you will be well on the way to being one of the great leaders of the life science industry. And your team will thank you for it.