What Do Transformational Leaders Do To Succeed?
May 22, 2017
The life sciences landscape is rapidly evolving, with ever-changing regulations, downward pressure on pricing from the customer, looming patent cliffs and a shrinking talent pool all carrying significant potential for future disruption.
While the industry continues to expand, forward-looking life sciences companies understand that they must hire innovative leaders in order to future-proof their success.
Life science organisations must evolve with the changing outlook by appointing transformational leaders to guide the company into the future, thereby moving away from short term transactional leadership and into a leadership style which favours long term strategy and innovation.
So what are the traits of transformational leaders?
They’re often hired from outside the ‘echo chamber’.
Transformative leaders often either come from another industry altogether (for example, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos came from finance) or have extensive experience in a department outside the company’s core revenue stream.
This is what a recent HBR article calls ‘Insider-Outsider’ leaders, who bring a fresh perspective to the table because they have outside experience. If a leader has come up in their entire career through the mainstream core of the business, it’s likely they’ll be so indoctrinated in the current way of doing business at the company that they may struggle to be truly innovative, and their ideas of what is possible can often be constrained.
If you want innovative, transformative leadership, you may want to look outside the echo chamber when hiring.
They’re charismatic storytellers
Transformative leaders know how to bring everyone into the company vision, by tapping into humankind’s deep affinity with stories. Not only are they crystal clear on what the goals are, but they also know how to individually tailor their message in an inspiring way to different parties- from key stakeholders to customers right through to the newest lab assistant.
A transformational leader is a born storyteller, and takes the vision and goals and communicates it consistently until every single person in the organisation knows how they fit into the plan to reach it.
They’re always thinking about the future.
Great transformational leaders are always planning for the future-with strategic plans that cover decades, not just months and years. From new revenue streams to succession planning, the best life science leaders are coming up with solutions to disruptions that haven’t happened yet.
They use culture change to win hearts and minds
Innovation and transformation happen when employees are passionate about their jobs, and given some leeway to suggest and develop their own ideas and projects. Other culture changes that spur transformation include encouraging diversity in the workplace, building a culture of two-way feedback, and offering a great training and incentive program. Great leaders understand that they must embody the culture change and convince other senior managers to live the culture too.
They are aware of their power to influence.
They display self-motivation, strength, and belief in the mission.
In the beginning, before everyone gets on board, transformational leaders may face a tough and lonely road. However, they possess the self-motivation to go the distance and are willing to make hard decisions and take some calculated risks.
They’re passionate about what they need to do and believe in it wholeheartedly. (They won’t get far transforming anything without believing it is both truly necessary and will bring about great things.)
They understand it’s all about the people.
Great leaders understand that to transform an organisation, they must transform individuals— into better leaders, into more devoted employees, into more loyal shareholders and customers. They spend time getting to genuinely know their team on an individual basis, and in bigger organisations where that’s impractical, they make sure they’re approachable as a leadership figure and always say hello.
They consult with their managers to get feedback and support and communicate with shareholders and customers where possible to create a stronger relationship.
They understand that change will generate resistance.
Change is bewildering and even anger-inducing for a lot of people. A transformational leader knows that their changes will cause disruption to employees, and therefore always makes it clear the how and why of what is happening and what employees need to do to be a positive part of the change. There’s always someone there to explain things and provide support in times of change.
They don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Successful transformational leaders know that it’s rarely practical to suddenly drop the old way of doing things entirely. Instead, they run ‘dual transformations’ where they add new projects and revenue streams while retaining and often reinventing the original model.
Companies such as Amazon and Apple which have completed astonishingly successful transformations have run this kind of dual transformation, whereby they’ve retained and repositioned their core business while building additional revenue streams (which may later become the core).
Leaders should seek to transform, rather than destroy, the original model.
They show their human side.
Finally, the most successful leaders show that they care about employees, leaders, shareholders, —and about the company itself. This human display of concern for the company’s people and its success is what drives the engagement and loyalty necessary to make a successful transformation.
With so many uncertainties in the future of life sciences, leadership must be transformational in order to attract talent and be prepared for the challenges ahead.