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Straight and Simple Advice Lives On in the Pharma Industry

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive: March 2024
Volume 45
Issue 3

Classic views on leadership are sometimes still the most effective.

Mike Hollan
Assistant managing editor,
Pharmaceutical Executive

Mike Hollan
Assistant managing editor,
Pharmaceutical Executive

Every leader needs a mantra. At least, every leader feels like they need one.

As part of my job as assistant managing editor at Pharmaceutical Executive, I’ve handled most of our recent executive profiles. Having the opportunity to interview leaders across various aspects of the industry is a uniquely interesting experience. Not surprisingly, people that rise to leadership roles tend to be confident and are more than willing to discuss their careers and leadership style.

One trend that I’ve noticed is that many of the CEOs I interview tend to keep things simple in the way that they approach leadership. Ultimately, their job is to steer the ship and provide guidance. There are a lot different ways to approach this, and not surprisingly, there are plenty of people creating elaborate systems they can use to guide leaders (and also write books about that they can then sell).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking to executives across the industry, it’s this: keep things simple.

I recently spoke with Rafaat Rahmani, president of Lifescience Dynamics, a global life sciences consulting firm. His story is genuinely inspiring. He described to me how he grew up in abject poverty and how he painstakingly saved and saved to be able to go to university. While there, he had to compress his classes into just two days a week so he could work the other five. He truly started from the bottom and climbed his way up the ladder.

“There weren’t many part-time jobs, but one of the jobs I had was husking corn,” he says, when describing some of the places he worked while attending university. “After the combine would go through, there would still be a lot of corn left. I would then come in and take those pieces manually and put them in the bushels. I also worked at an entomology department where we researched herbicides for farming. I did all kinds of jobs.”

During our conversation, Rahmani recalled a piece of advice he got from his father.

“I remember my father, just before he passed away, he said it doesn’t matter if you’re the king, president, or janitor, you need to treat everyone as a human and as an equal,” says Rahmani. “You have to earn their respect. Respect and trust are more important than any money, and that comes from integrity and being honest. Without integrity and honesty, you cannot have trust.”

He continues, “My father came from an agricultural society. In India at that time, that was not very well-paid. My father said to always pay the workers before their sweat is dried. They’re working all day in the field, so you pay them immediately. You never cheat, not even a single penny.”

It’s very straightforward advice, but it’s worked for Rahmani. He also discussed valuable words of wisdom he received from a professor at his graduation. While the specific advice was tailored toward marketing, Rahmani took the principles and applied it to his leadership style as well.

“That professor gave me advice, saying that the best salesman of a product is the product itself,” he says. “The second thing was that if people can’t feel or notice the difference, they will not pay for the difference. When I set up Lifescience Dynamics, I remembered that advice and used it as the core of the company’s philosophy. The core is the quality and service. Best-in-class quality, white-glove service, and highest ethical standards. Those are three pillars. We make sure that our service is based on the concept that if the customer can’t feel or notice the difference, they won’t pay for it.”

Rahmani absorbed this sales advice and applied to it across his organization. When he discusses white-glove service, he doesn’t just mean for his customers. He treats his employees that way as well. Similarly to his father’s words, this advice is straightforward and simple.

We live in a world of mantras and slogans. Stepping into a leadership role is daunting, and it can feel like you need to create your own method of doing things. Based on my conversations with pharma CEOs, however, that doesn’t have to be the case. There’s a lot of advice out there, but sometimes the advice that’s old and everyone has heard before is the best advice. There’s a reason why everyone keeps repeating it. Leaders will do well to listen to those that came before them and learn how to implement some basic principles (like respect) into the modern world.

Mike Hollan is Pharm Exec’s Assistant Managing Editor. He can be reached at mhollan@mjhlifesciences.com.

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