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Nine Pharma Lessons from the Battlefield


Rick Lynch, the Army General who led the Iraqi ‘surge’ campaign, cites nine lessons that pharma leaders can apply in today’s come-from-behind struggle for market share.

Rick Lynch, the Army General who led the Iraqi ‘surge’ campaign, cites nine lessons that pharma leaders can apply in today’s come-from-behind struggle for market share.

When I retired from the military, I decided to write a book that would capture my leadership experiences and lessons learned (Adapt or Die: Leadership Principles from an American General). I took 35 years in the Army and four years at West Point and condensed it to nine leadership principles, which are highly applicable to pharma.

Nine ways to lead

Terms of engagement. Leaders should love their subordinates like they love their own children. But today’s pharma CEO must ask intrusive questions to learn more about the workforce. It is critical to remember that leaders must be careful what they ask. There is no such thing as a casual conversation if you are a leader. If your employee tells you something based on your question, they expect that you will respond by doing something.

Strength in stability. Anyone who works for an employer five days, every week, deserve predictability. Leaders must shield their workforce from any problem, and turn every event into an opportunity and not an obstacle. And they must show their employees that it is OK to focus on their families. It is all about time management, and focusing on important things.

Decision time-why rush? Leaders must decide when to decide. Decide when to decide first.  Then take advantage of all available time to research the decision, seek input from everyone involved, and talk to folks about the idea in advance to see how well it will be received.

Downward mobility. Leaders must look down, not up. Too many folks spend their work days trying to impress their boss. But your employees will take care of you if you take care of them. 

Demand, don’t demean. It is OK to demand adherence to high standards. When goals are accomplished, do the appropriate recognition and then “raise the high bar.” Also, set goals that are just beyond reach to motivate increased performance. However, leaders don’t need to be demeaning to do that.

Open communication. Make it a point to have an effective counseling program in your organization. Require leaders to routinely sit down with their employees and discuss job performance. This has to be done at least quarterly.

Seek a supportive mix. Leaders should always celebrate diversity. Take a close look at who is in your “inner circle.” If they look just like you, you are limiting yourself.

Mentee, mentor. Everyone should have a mentor, and everyone should be a mentor. It is how companies grow and flourish. Mentors are accessible, they listen well, and they truly care. Encourage your employees to seek out mentors.

Have a blast. Leaders should have fun. If the leader isn’t having fun, no one is having fun. When people are having fun and enjoy what they do, they are more productive. They look forward to coming to work.

The full version of this article is published in February’s Pharmaceutical Executive magazine.

About the Author

Rick Lynch is author of Adapt or Die: Leadership Principles from an American General. He can be reached at ricky.lynch55@gmail.com. 

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