7 ways to improve your leadership skills in the life science industry

Hannah Burke our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 21/02/2023

All life science companies need effective leaders to thrive. Leaders have the ability to influence the design, development, and distribution of products in a variety of ways that have a huge impact on patients’ lives. Progressing your career in a leadership role requires not only a step up in responsibility but a shift in behaviour and mindset. However, you cannot become an effective leader overnight. To have a meaningful impact on others and the life science industry, you must be willing to learn how to motivate, inspire, innovate, and collaborate with others. Here are 7 ways you can develop your leadership skills to become more successful in your role and further your life science leadership career:

Practise discretion

Learning how to practise discretion at work is a staple leadership quality. This involves being diplomatic, cautious, and using common sense when dealing with confidential information or sensitive situations in the workplace. You will need to hone your sense of judgement, learn how to handle difficult office politics, and avoid damaging behaviours such as gossiping. It is often said that leaders bring the whether. This means that to instil a positive culture and earn the respect of your team and colleagues, you must lead by example.

Know when to delegate

Letting go and delegating responsibilities to your team can be a challenging, but it’s an important leadership skill. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that it is beneficial to both manager and employee, yet many people struggle to relinquish control. As a result, you will become overstretched and have difficulty making a significant impact and steering the team towards yours or the company’s ultimate vision. Some managers are afraid the work won’t be done to a high enough standard or think they can do a better job themselves, but as a leader, you should be empowering your team.

Delegating responsibilities to a subordinate is good for their training and development and helps to give them the confidence in their own abilities. True leaders should always be asking; “Could someone else be doing this?” or “Would it benefit someone in my team to learn how to do this?”. However, be sure to provide them with the adequate training, guidance, and the feedback they need to solidify the skills they are developing.

Learn how to motivate your team

Another important step in developing your leadership capabilities is knowing how to best motivate your team to be as productive and committed as possible. Leaders can increase employee engagement by recognising their efforts and achievements and ensuring they understand how their work contributes to team, department or function, and wider company goals. This is important as many professionals choose to work in the life science industry because of the sense of purpose it brings.

As a leader,  you should get to know the people in your team and learn what makes them tick as individuals. By adapting your approach and applying different leadership styles with different people and in different circumstances, you will become a more effective and well-rounded leader.

Focus more on soft skills

While your technical abilities are vital to your role as a manager, particularly within life science companies that rely on highly skilled employees to sustain innovation, becoming a leader also demands that you have certain traits or qualities. Your ability to master these soft skills will set you apart when it comes to furthering your leadership career.

Soft skills are so important because they revolve around the ability to communicate and engage effectively with people inside and outside of the organisation, which can have a big impact on how influential you are. These skills are wide ranging and transferable for use in several different activities, tasks and situations at work. Examples include becoming a more effective communicator and listener, improving critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as mastering more difficult aspects such as conflict resolution or giving constructive feedback.

Adapt your mindset

Developing as a leader is marked by a shift in focus from yourself to putting your team, the company, patients, and wider industry at the heart of the decisions you make. It’s likely you now have more opportunity to influence strategy and collaborate cross-functionally with other teams, but being a leader is not about getting people to do things your way. An effective leader surrounds themselves with people who know more than they do, listens to them, and makes decisions armed with all the information available.

Continue learning

Even the most successful leaders understand that there is always room for improvement and will seek out opportunities to learn and take advice from other leaders. Personal development is a continuous process and as new technologies, trends, and ways of working emerge, leaders must be agile and adapt to the tide of change. This is hugely important to help keep life science companies as relevant and innovative as possible and maximise their ability to reach and serve patients with unmet medical needs.

Identify future leaders

Paying attention to your own professional growth is certainly a key aspect of being a great leader, but you must also bring others along with you. As a leader, it is up to you to enable the growth and ambition of high potential individuals in your team and empower them to become future life science leaders too. Some managers may feel threatened by a talented subordinate, but true leaders will be keen to nurture those with potential.

This is not a completely selfless act – helping others to succeed is inherently rewarding. It will also ensure that you retain high levels of talent in the company to help propel it towards fulfilling the company’s wider vision and growth of the life sciences industry.

Want to develop your leadership skills?