- 2 years ago
21 March 2022
A new style of pharma leader has come into vogue with a focus on people and culture placed before numbers and output, a leading global recruiter says, tipping that leaders of the future will come from different business areas and bring new and different experiences to the job.
Heidrick & Struggles partner Tanja Ivkovic leads the Life Sciences division of the executive recruitment firm and told MedNews the style of leader companies look for has evolved from people who drove results and delivered on the numbers to authentic, purpose-driven leaders who put their people first.
“It’s about being able to engage the organisation and create a meaningful purpose and vision that people can align to,” she says. “The leader is role modelling the behaviours they want to see from their people.
“You no longer want that high profile, charismatic CEO who speaks really well when interviewing externally but whom people in the organisation fear. Now it’s much more about inspiring and energising people around a vision and purpose where they feel they are part of the story. That’s what keeps people attracted to the company and makes them want to stay.”
Ivkovic says this shift could also result in future leaders coming from different areas of the business.
“If we look back, CEOs were traditionally from sales and marketing or commercial then all of a sudden, finance became a strategic function rather than a back-office support function and we saw a string of CFOs become CEOs.
“In pharma, support functions like market access, government, regulatory affairs, and real-world evidence are now also coming from the back to the front and are the new drivers of growth. This could also potentially disrupt what the CEO of the future looks like.
“People from these areas will have very different skills and capabilities to bring to pharma organisations, so even though pharma is cliquey in terms of choosing its talent from the sector, all of a sudden we’re likely to see CEOs coming up through a different path and therefore having a different view and a different way of leading the business.”
Ivkovic pointed to recently-arrived AstraZeneca Country President Ben McDonald as an example of a new breed of country leader who has taken a different path to the top, McDonald coming from a legal rather than a commercial or sales background.
“It will be really wonderful to see how he makes this role his own,” she says, pointing to Medical Affairs as another area to watch for future company leaders.
“When we look at medical affairs, the best people know how to build a bridge between medical and commercial, so when you’re grooming medical affairs professionals today, you’re really trying to bolster their commercial skills and business understanding,” she says.
“When these people come to be CEOs, they’re going to have something deeper because they’ll have a deep passion for medical as well as the business acumen.”
H&S researched high-performing organisations to determine what differentiated them and found it was their ability to mobilise, execute and transform with agility.
“At its core, this means that the company’s employees help it to adapt and pivot faster than its competitors in areas where doing so adds value,” H&S concluded. The insight led the firm to develop its META ‘accelerating performance’ framework, META being an acronym for Mobilise, Execute, Transform, and Agility.
Applicable to the organisation, teams and individual leaders, it calls on leaders to inspire action based on a compelling ambition and purpose; harness resources to deliver in the core business; encourage experimentation and innovation to create new growth engines, and; enable teams to pivot at a faster pace than competitors to create a competitive advantage.
“Leaders need to create an environment where people are open to change and a culture where people welcome change and are willing to think outside the box and come up with ideas,” Ivkovic concludes.