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Leadership Attributes In Industry

Physicians in industry must be leaders—not just experts in their field.

What does it mean for a physician to be a leader in industry?  What attributes are companies looking for in physicians who are seeking careers in industry?

Physicians looking for non-clinical careers may find a good fit in the medical device or pharmaceutical industries.  Some will have no difficulty in demonstrating technical mastery of the job.  After all, they are domain experts.  Unfortunately, physicians in industry are expected to be strong leaders—not just experts in their field of medicine.

The good news is that the attributes of a good leader can be learned.  Contrary to what some believe, these qualities are not passed down through the DNA of well-known business leaders.  Physicians can develop or strengthen their leadership skills—and apply these skills in new career opportunities.  But they will need to be deliberate and intentional about this—and go into industry with their eyes open.  Top companies will have high expectations for leadership—perhaps more so than for the technical aspects of a job.     

Some companies simply display their mission and vision statements—and almost never refer to them.  For others, theses statements are very much a part of their culture or “social architecture.”  They constantly talk about why they exist, what they want to achieve in the future, what they value most—and what they consider to be the key attributes of leaders in their organization.  In these companies, management and staff continuously evaluate themselves and each other against these standards.  Technical know-how is necessary—but not sufficient.  Physicians will need to be proficient in medicine—but also true leaders in a dynamic business setting.   

Different companies may use different terms to describe leadership—but the key attributes are essentially the same.  These core qualities are vital to most businesses and certainly apply to companies in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.   

Charts the Course (sets the direction and plan)

  • Translates the business strategy into challenging, actionable objectives and plans
  • Conveys a sense of purpose and mission that motivates others
  • Maintains direction, balancing big-picture concepts with day-to-day issues

Delivers Results

  • Consistently achieves results in line with company values
  • Establishes high performance standards, uses measurable goals to track progress, and   continually raises the bar on performance and expectations
  • Focuses their organization on high-impact activities by clearly communicating expectations, accountabilities, and responsibilities
  • Conducts periodic reality-based, results-focused operating reviews and drives quick corrective actions

 Develops Best Team

  • Recruits and retains high-performing individuals and develops successors for key positions
  • Builds diverse and empowered teams
  • Provides honest and constructive feedback on an ongoing basis.

 Role Model

  • Lives the company values and sets expectations for others to do so
  • Displays self-awareness and seeks self-improvement
  • Demonstrates technical mastery of the job
  • Develops insightful strategies based on deep knowledge of external and internal operating environments
  • Champions opportunities for change and innovation
  • Has the courage and judgment to take appropriate risks

For further reading on this topic, check out the following resources: The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, Leading Change by John Kotter, Execution: The discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, and High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders by Morgan McCall.

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