iSpeak Blog

How to Become the Authentic Leader You Envision – Women in Pharma

Magdalena Nogalski-Krapf
How to Become the Authentic Leader You Envision - ISPE Pharmaceutical Engineering

The 2018 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo took place in Philadelphia this year. Philadelphia, the city with the oldest square mile in United States, has a lot to offer. I have spent the last twenty years of my life here, so I am speaking from experience. Despite the fact that tourist attractions were fairly close, I doubt people had time to explore the city – they may have seen some glimpses of it if they participated in the 5K run on Monday morning. As usual, the 2018 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo agenda was packed with education tracks during the days and social events in the evening.

Fun fact: Did you know that the Reading Terminal Market, where the Tuesday night party was held was featured in “National Treasure” with Nicholas Cage? I typically go there to get a Thai lunch, and I was happy to see this space turned into the dance floor. The tunes were great, and you couldn’t help but to get up and dance.

But I want to backtrack to Monday night however. This was the night ISPE chose for the Women in Pharma (WIP) Networking dinners, which is a signature event for the Women in Pharma community. The idea is pretty simple – to provide the opportunity for learning and networking in a small and fun setting. The host or host’s company sponsors the dinner, so it is free for the attendees. It is a great way for smaller companies to support the Women in Pharma program. The host comes up with a topic for the dinner. The topics revolved around leadership, mentoring, and personal development. There were 14 dinners scheduled this year. Some of the examples of this year’s topics included “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, “How to find your voice and how to be heard”, and “Hiring Globally”.

Our dinner combined a couple of topics: Become the Authentic Leader You Envision and What Would You Do If You Were Fearless? Our group consisted of seven women professionals spanning three generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials, which made the discussion even more interesting. We started with introductions around the table - the stories of how people got to where they are were fascinating. We talked about taking roles which are pushing us beyond our comfort zone (this is from the person with forty years of experience) and how one can benefit from it. We realized that the fears we all expressed are present in everyone. The difference is how we embrace it to learn and grow in our careers. Sharing examples of success in this area inspired our group to take those opportunities that come along and do our best. We talked about thinking outside the box, discussed taking on managing roles, importance of asking for feedback, and the fact that feedback is great, but it should be taken with some distance. Afterall, everybody could have their own agenda and feedback may not be completely sincere – unfortunately.

This takes us to one of the topics of our dinner “Authentic Leadership” and what it means. There are many definitions, but most agree on some key features of the Authentic Leader. Here are some of them:

  • Being Genuine – Be Yourself – At Work 
    Some of our group would add to this: but be professional too. There is still the difference between professional and the rest of the world. With our lives shared on social media, this is more important than ever. On the other hand, it was interesting to hear how comfortable our younger colleagues are with sharing personal details without much reservation. So perhaps in the future this will change for all of us.
  • Being Self-Aware of Strengths and Weaknesses
    Allow for failure. This may be easier said than done. Who wants to openly admit their mistakes? That’s when the strengths come handy – you made a mistake. This doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Identify, fix, move on, and don’t repeat. In a moment of doubt, remind yourself about every success story you have. Some participants suggested to write them down and keep them in physical box that you can pull and read when you are feeling down.
  • To Listen, Really Listen
    Many say – but I am a great listener. Well - how many times did you interrupt somebody or finish the sentence for them? Perhaps you a great listener at work but not so great outside of work? Are you one of these people who is afraid they forget what they want to say, so they have to say it (and interrupt others)? Well, write it down then. Yes, it requires some patience, but the rewards could be magical.
  • Express Appreciation
    Are you one of those people who grew up never hearing that you were doing great? The parents just expected you to have good grades etc. Well, I don’t think anyone has a problem with being appreciated for their efforts.
  • Communication is Key
    True for many aspects of life. For the Authentic Leader it has to include empathy – this also means genuine interest in people’s lives and wellbeing.
  • Authentic Leaders Follow His/Her Values
    They put the goals of the organization before their own interest. This doesn’t mean not taking care of yourself and your wellbeing in the process.

The discussion was so lively and we had such a great time, we didn’t notice how the three hours flew by. We pretty much closed the restaurant. We are planning on doing this again next year, so make sure you sign up during your 2019 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo registration when the dinners become available.