Exceptional leadership for an exceptional industry

Professor Brian D Smith dives into findings from his research to see what makes a good pharma leader

Few subjects consume as much bandwidth as leadership. From banal LinkedIn posts to weighty academic tomes, to those airport books with sexy, over-promising titles, we’re overwhelmed with prescriptions about how to lead. But look carefully and you will see that this huge edifice is built on one, dubious assumption: leadership is leadership, whatever business you’re in.

This is an extraordinary claim for which, to echo Carl Sagan, there is no evidence. Further, it is counter-intuitive: do we really believe that leading, say, Novartis is the same as leading Wal-Mart? Aside from obvious, basic competencies, is the skill-set of a CEO in pharmaceuticals or medical technology really the same as one in retail or consumer goods? These thoughts drove my latest research, in which I asked 23 industry leaders two questions: Is leading in our industry different and how do those differences influence how you lead? Their surprisingly frank answers, based on seven hundred years cumulative experience, make essential reading for those who work in the industry and perhaps aspire to leadership.

• Read the full article in pharmaphorum’s Deep Dive digital magazine