The Leadership Challenges Facing the Pharmaceutical Sector

At Fieri, we often find ourselves exploring the bustling corridors of pharmaceutical companies, where innovation meets regulation. Within these halls, we work with organisations that face some of the strictest regulations of any industry, whilst also being innovative in every aspect of their work, creating leadership challenges.

As pharmaceutical company ranks swell with exceptional talent, the ever-shifting sands of technology demand constant adaptation, and leaves leaders to grapple with the daunting task of identifying and closing skill gaps. This is where our team at Fieri support, and provide our partners with consultancy and people development opportunities to navigate moments of change. This article delves into the specific challenges pharmaceutical leaders face in people development and explores strategies to address them.

Skill Shortages and Training Needs:

The rapid evolution of technology and scientific advancements necessitates ongoing training and upskilling of the workforce. However, identifying skill gaps and providing relevant training programmes pose significant challenges for pharmaceutical leaders (Albright et al., 2019). Implementing tailored training initiatives and partnering with academic based institutions and training providers can help address these challenges effectively.

Leadership Development:

The entire culture of an organisation is impacted by the quality of its leaders, making training in this area essential. However, leadership development programmes in the pharmaceutical sector often face challenges such as lack of resources, succession planning complexities, and the need for specialised leadership skills (Gallo et al., 2020). Choosing an off the shelf training solution runs the risk of spending precious working hours on irrelevant topics. Instead, pharmaceutical organisations should work with a people development provider that tailors their training and cultivates a pipeline of future leaders.

Cross-functional Collaboration:

The complex nature of pharmaceutical necessitates effective collaboration across diverse functional areas, including R&D, regulatory affairs, marketing, and manufacturing (Staudt & Clark, 2020). However, communication barriers, and conflicting priorities can hinder collaboration efforts (Nembhard & Edmondson, 2019). In addition to supporting a collaborative culture, it can also be useful to focus on communication skills to facilitate collaboration.

Work-Life Balance and Employee Well-being:

The demanding nature of work in the pharmaceutical industry, coupled with tight deadlines and regulatory pressures, can take a toll on employee well-being and work-life balance (Bhave et al., 2020). Leaders must prioritise employee health and well-being and promote work-life balance initiatives. At Fieri, we utilise a series of models, including the MoSCoW model to help our learners plan out their daily work and find balance.

Succession Planning:

Succession planning is critical for ensuring continuity and sustainability in leadership roles, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, where leadership turnover can disrupt operations and impede innovation (Rothwell & Lindholm, 2019). Leaders must proactively identify and develop high-potential employees, create personalised development plans, and groom future leaders to fill key roles within the organisation.

At Fieri, we offer tailored people development opportunities to organisations of all sizes, at all levels. Whether you’re looking for a one day masterclass, or a long term training partnership to tackle leadership challenges, our team are here to help.

To find out more about our services, take a look at our Fieri website, or contact our team directly at:


Albright, T. D., Rodriguez, J., & Snow, R. C. (2019). Pharmaceutical Employee Competencies and Their Link to Organizational Performance. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 30(4), 515–537.

Bhave, D. P., Glomb, T. M., & Williams, M. L. (2020). Doing More with Less? Be Careful What You Wish For. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 13(1-2), 59–63.

Gallo, A. A., Eichinger, R. W., & Lombardo, M. M. (2020). The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company. John Wiley & Sons.

Nembhard, I. M., & Edmondson, A. C. (2019). Making It Safe: The Effects of Leader Inclusiveness and Professional Status on Psychological Safety and Improvement Efforts in Health Care Teams. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 40(7), 941–966.

Rothwell, W. J., & Lindholm, J. E. (2019). Succession Planning Basics. Society for Human Resource Management.

Staudt, J., & Clark, M. A. (2020). Leadership, Collaboration, and Effective Teams in Complex Systems. Public Administration Review, 80(4), 588–593.