The ‘secret sauce’ to leadership in pharma

In our latest webcast, Rich James was joined by Todd Billingsley and Rich Baron, for a fascinating conversation on leadership in the pharmaceutical industry.

The ‘secret sauce’ to leadership in pharma

Throughout the discussion, Rich J, Todd and Rich B gave many fantastic insights into the importance of great leaders, how to identify them, and the challenges of the future they are integral to overcoming.

Check out the full webcast to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the wisdom our two great guests had to offer.


The importance of leadership

What is the secret to optimal business performance?

Both Todd and Rich B place huge emphasis on the people within the organization driving the outcomes. And, when it comes to optimizing the performance of your employees, look no further than their leaders.

“The best leaders make the best employees, and the best employees drive the best outcomes for the business. It’s that simple.”

Rich Baron

These aren’t just unsubstantiated claims either- they’ve come equipped with the stats to back it up.

  • Todd cites a study by Gallup that found an incredible 70% of business performance is directly tied to the quality of leadership.
  • Rich B goes further, citing that great leaders generate up to 48% more profit than average leaders.

These stats really highlight the importance of leadership in business, but the real trick of the trade is finding a great leader.


What makes a great leader?

Our guests describe leaders as “selfless stewards” of the business. They must put their own ego aside and put what’s best for the company at the forefront of every decision. They’re entrusted understanding and contributing to the mission and vision of the organization.

To do this they need to be excellent communicators, and speak with authenticity and compassion. They should empower and inspire employees, realizing their importance and place great value in their development.

These traits will be increasingly important as Gen Z, who want to be developed and given a sense of purpose, are set to make up ⅔ of the workforce in the next few years.

Rich B adds that the best leaders aren’t just content with developing their employees, but are hungry to improve themselves.

“The difference between a manager and a leader is the former focuses on doing things right and the latter on doing the right things.”

Todd Billingsley


Choosing the right one

Knowing the qualities a leader should possess is the first part of picking a leader. The second part is trickier, and one steeped in misleading traditions.

Ever seen the 2011 movie ‘Moneyball’? Based on a true story, it follows a baseball team that revolutionized the way the game viewed players, relying heavily on data to create a low budget team capable of winning. Todd talks about how they do the same thing in the NFL, how each player has every stat from their career poured over and analyzed for hours. He then expresses a frustration that, despite the success of this method, the same has not been applied to the management of these teams.

In fact, the statistics on those hired to leadership positions is damning. 87% of those hired by organizations are either a poor fit or have a lack of training. This happens for a range of reasons – not understanding the criteria of what makes a great leader, to the assumption that a great employee automatically makes a great leader. This has to change.

Todd suggests that the way to do this is to take the same approach that is applied to players in sports across the globe. Use the reams of data available in the modern day to make truly educated decisions. Rich B adds that if the data isn’t readily available, assessment is hugely valuable. Not only does it provide the data, but it also gives those being assessed a visual representation of their improvement.

Both guests also highlight the importance of promoting from within your organization. Doing this correctly revolves around understanding the development of leaders. A lot of the training programs are subjectively driven, from what the host believes makes a good leader.

Rich B opposes this, saying the data suggests that there are holistic traits that objectively make a good leader. The training needs to reflect this, and understand the learning curve from knowledge to understanding and finally to application.


The challenges of the future

Both of our guests have worked much of their career around the pharmaceutical industry, and talk of the challenges brought about by accelerated changes. For example, Covid-19 caused huge waves in the industry, sending a surge towards the need for digital interactions.

To help face these challenges, employees will need to adapt, reskill and upskill. The role of leaders in preparing organizations for these changes cannot be understated.

“Change starts at home” says Rich B. “It can’t be one week workshops once a year because that’s not development.” Training needs to be effective for organizations to keep pace, and leaders have to be the driving force behind this.

“Great leaders need to understand the nature of change, what needs to happen and why, and they need to sell that into their teams.”

Todd Billingsley

If you’re looking to revolutionize the way your organization trains, look no further than Attensi. We are world leaders in gamified simulation training, using cutting edge technology and psychology to unlock your employees potential.


About our guests

Todd Billingsley

Todd Billingsley has nearly 30 years of experience in leadership roles and leadership development. He’s extremely passionate about developing the next generation of leaders across all industries.

Rich Baron

Rich is a results-oriented leader within the life sciences industry, with over 28 years of direct pharmaceutical sales, marketing and L&D experience. The majority of his career has been split between leadership in Marketing and L&D.

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