A Better Approach to Leadership in Pharma #25 #cong21


Can certain aspects of leadership be outsourced? Within the pharma sector many leaders are top heavy with knowledge and reasoning skills. However, in an industry where every healthcare product must leave the factory floor flawless, intrinsic motivation and personal responsibility should be the gold standard for staff. Providing a true sense of purpose around the work being done is one way but, who will provide the necessary motivation and inspiration to make this a reality…?

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Leadership and motivational messaging are needed in the pharma sector, now more than ever.
  2. Not all CEOs are great motivators. Sometimes another approach is needed to fill that gap.
  3. Human behavior can be influenced through manipulation or inspiration. Which do you think would be most effective?
  4. For motivational leadership to be effective both information and emotion must be engaged to be effective.

About Darren Cawley

I live in Westport with my wife and two little Kids. Many years ago, quite by accident, I became a Motivational Speaker. The ‘accident’ being that at 20 years of age, in the space of 10 days, I went from being a healthy Sport & Fitness Studies student to having kidney failure!
Unexpected? Yes.

Looking back, not all bad. I’ve had 2 transplants and around 1,800 dialysis sessions in hospital but, I’ve had some fantastic experiences and huge personal growth, thanks to the adversity I’ve lived through.
So that is what I do, I share the lessons from my experience in an inspiring and entertaining fashion to schools, businesses, conferences and even the EU Parliament a few times.
I’ve spent lockdown mainly minding the 2 kids and creating an online course for people with kidney disease, “From Victimhood to Resilience”.

Contacting Darren Cawley:

You can connect with Darren on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook or find out more about his work on Darren Cawley.com


By Darren Cawley

I’ve worked with pharma companies for many years and witnessed different approaches in relation to leadership and staff motivation.

The pharmaceutical sector is vitally important for Ireland’s economy. We have 19 of the top 20 Global pharma companies in the world with bases and manufacturing here. That’s approximately 50,000 direct and indirect employees.
During the Covid epidemic the pressure and stress on employees in the pharma sectors has been immense. This is especially challenging for an industry whose purpose is to ease the pain and suffering of others.
Keeping staff motivated, productive and creative therefore is a vital part of the leadership process within this sector.
The typical “Top-Down” approach is for the CEO of the company to deliver motivational messaging. However, most pharma companies have their headquarters in America, so the President/CEO, in the US, passes his message to his vice presidents and directors, who in turn strive to inspire the site directors, who pass this on to the individual operational managers, who then endeavour to inspire the team leaders who then pass on the “inspiring” inspirational messaging to the staff on the floors of the company sites here in Ireland.

Not really ideal, effective or inspirational. But, motivating staff across such a diverse ecosystem is a very challenging aspect of large business. Simon Sinek has said “there are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it”

Manipulation, and I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, is the more widely used tactic. The carrot and stick approach; work harder for your carrot, or you’ll get the stick..

There is another way to inspire.

Another way is to ‘intrinsically’ motivate and inspire staff. I’m not being naive saying that working for money and the threat of the “boss” looking over your shoulder is not effective, it is. But if staff feel they are working with a sense of purpose they will work with greater integrity, safety and care, even when no one is looking!

How can this be done?

What if we turn the structure of motivating staff on its head. Traditionally we see the end result of what Pharma does as being a ‘product’. But what if we extend the manufacturing product life-cycle a little ‘out the door’? Doing this will bring into play the patient who uses the product. Hopefully a healthier person, thanks to successfully being treated by the product.

So, if we change the messaging to “every product IS a person” we improve the intrinsic motivation of staff and essentially humanise the product being produced. The knock-on effect is greater productivity, health & safety and staff working with a sense of purpose.

Who is the best person to deliver this messaging

How about using patients as leaders? Someone who is alive, healthy and full of genuine gratitude due to the work being done within the industry. A patient leader can position employees to experience greater meaningfulness from their work by changing the meaning of their work.

This will enable staff to feel and think like HEROS in the patient journey, rather than a mere cog in the corporate machine.
Yes, money, promotions and the watchful eyes of the boss will encourage staff to do their job but, wouldn’t it be better if employees were intrinsically motivated due to the bigger picture view given by “the person behind the product”!
The CEO/President of a large company is in the prime position of leadership. However, in terms of motivating and inspiring staff, this form of leadership often becomes an extrinsic function of management for him/her rather than true motivational leadership. Why? Because information without emotion is not retained when it comes to the motivating and inspiring of the workforce.

In the pharma sector leadership and providing intrinsic motivation, purpose and passion could be “outsourced” to the one group of people who have experience, empathy, and most importantly genuine gratitude towards the workforce- the Patient.

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