SAMPS was previously Association of Commercial Professionals for Life Sciences (ACP-LS)

How to Become an Exceptional Leader

August 21, 2017

Not just great. Exceptional.

You know someone who fits this description. It's someone you admire. He or she has a seemingly magical ability to drive a vision and make things happen.

If you'd like to become one of these people,  I've got good news for you. You can greatly improve your performance by getting really good at a single leadership competency. That's right. Just focus on one thing and you will leap over most of your peers.

I can't tell you which one of the 16 competencies you should work on. But there is a workshop where you can find out.

I interviewed Joanne Gordon, the VP of HR at Tintri and formerly of Thermo, Affymetrix and Ebay. She explained to me the research behind this idea and how one goes about identifying and developing one profound strength to become an exceptional leader.

Listen to Joanne Gordon on Life Science Marketing Radio:

The magic of one profound strength

I was fascinated by this. (And I love the simplicity of it.) How can a focus on one leadership competency make such a big difference? There are a couple of reasons. When you focus on one, you probably get a little better at a few related competencies.  The other reason is the Halo Effect. When someone is perceived as being exceptionally good at one thing, we assume that they are very good at many things.

While we understand logically that we all have weaknesses, we follow those that have proved to be very successful in one area. And then you can image that success breeds more success. Who wants some of that? I do.

There are cases where focusing on a weakness makes sense. If someone has a "fatal flaw", that needs to be remedied. This is a weakness that will prevent a person from being successful in their position, regardless of whatever other skills they possess.

There are 16 leadership competencies that Zanger Folkman have identified as making a difference among exceptional leaders. Think of these leadership competencies as falling into five categories like the poles of a tent you would see at a fancy outdoor wedding reception.

The center pole is integrity. That is the most important. Hard to argue with that. Without integrity, your tent will fill up with rainwater, sag in the middle and eventually dump all over your guests. Not what you had in mind.

The other four tent poles fall into groups around personal capability/expertise, results/initiative, interpersonal skills, and leading change.

How do you develop your strength?

Cross training. For any strength that you would focus on, there are a few other "competency companions". When you get better at these, it tends to elevate the one you need to get better at. Joanne gave an example of a leader who was 'very, very knowledgeable in her area of expertise, but, for some reason, wasn't seen that way."

We worked on that competency companion to her technical skills, which is communicating profoundly. As she became a better communicator, voila, she was also seen as more technically knowledgeable because she was able to communicate it now. They could see that technical knowledge because she had learned how to better communicate it.

Leaders who develop a single profound strength can move their performance from the 34th to the 67th percentile. How do you keep moving up? One competency at a time. Some leaders may choose to work on two skills, but typically Zenger Folkman (the workshop provider) recommends a sequential approach.

I recommend you get started now.

Learn more about the workshop and register.

SAMPS, Sales And Marketing Professionals in Scientific research, is the first and only organization dedicated to sales and marketing professionals within the life sciences.

The association’s goal is to serve its members who work in commercial roles for life science products and services companies and associated businesses, globally.
SAMPS was previously named ACP-LS. We feel that SAMPS more clearly describes the membership, and will form a better foundation from which to expand this membership globally. 
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