As someone external to the biotech field, I never really thought of it as a very broad industry. However, our recent research into best practices for leaders in this field made me take a deeper look. It turns out that the biotech industry encompasses a diverse group of specialized areas, including medical, industrial and agricultural biotechnology. After learning this, it was a little less surprising that ten different LEA behaviors were found to be good predictors of leadership effectiveness in the field.
When contexts are so varied, it is not surprising that leaders convey effectiveness through a variety of behavior patterns and combinations. This is why gaining a better understanding of context should be one of our initial goals when working with leaders. Biotech professionals are frequently stereotyped as studious lab-dwellers, but within this industry, there exists a lot of variety and different ways to be effective. We can then help our clients determine which behaviors they should emphasize to increase effectiveness as a leader.
As is often the case, this research reminded me of a real-life example: a friend of mine who has worked in biotech for almost 25 years. His research was recently being held up by a delayed delivery of fresh bacteria. If it were me (and, I assume, most people out there even in the biotech industry), I would wait for the bacteria to arrive and find some other way to make use of my time. My friend had a different idea. He wanted to finish this study so he walked to the pond behind his building, got some pond water and voilà! He had bacteria for his research. How very innovative of him. While a fun story to tell, it is also an example of how what works for one person may not work for another.
Not everyone is going to find a natural source for lab supplies and not everyone has to show high levels of innovation to be successful in biotech. However, there are other behaviors that when used in the right combination, can lead to higher levels of effectiveness in the field. We just need to find out what combination work in each context.