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Pharmaceutical & Biotech Top-Performing Physician Leader Analysis

Pharmaceutical & Biotech Top-Performing Physician Leader Analysis


There is a long history of research addressing the relationship between personality and effective leadership in organizations (e.g., Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002; Hambrick & Mason, 1984; House, Spangler, & Woyche, 1991). Compelling evidence has emerged from a number of recent studies that suggest personality is a strong indicator of the types of individuals who ascend to executive levels and that personality helps explain how these individuals lead their organizations once they are established in these positions (Resick, Whitman, Weingarden, & Hiller, 2009). In recent years, Caliper has conducted a number of studies that investigated the relationship between effective leadership and personality traits. One such study included a sample of 293 successful corporate leaders across multiple industries. The findings suggested a very distinct model of executive level leadership personality. In general, this group of successful leaders exhibited dynamics that are consistent with being adept at influencing and directing others, skillful at building relationships and masterful at solving problems and making decisions. In essence, these leaders were extremely bright, assertive, driven to persuade, empathic and resilient. Having a need to get things accomplished, they are willing to take risks. They are also moderately sociable, demonstrating a healthy level of skepticism, and are motivated to come up with new ideas.

In another leadership-related study, Caliper (2005) conducted research on the unique personality traits of successful women leaders. Among the findings from this study of 59 successful women leaders were that women leaders score significantly higher than male leaders in ego-drive (persuasive motivation), assertiveness, willingness to risk, empathy, urgency, flexibility and sociability. The strong people skills possessed by women leaders enable them to read situations accurately and take in information from all sides. This willingness to see all sides of a situation enhances their persuasive ability. They can zero in on someone’s objections or concerns, weigh them appropriately, address them effectively and incorporate them into the grander scheme of things when appropriate. These women leaders are able to bring others around to their point of view or alter their own point of view—depending upon the circumstances and information they uncover. They can do this because they genuinely understand and care about where others are coming from. This allows them to come at a subject from their audience’s perspective, so that the people they are leading feel more understood, supported and valued.

In conjunction with Caliper, Amrop Battalia Winston has conducted a study to understand the leadership profile of top physicians in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. The purpose of this research is to identify if there are particular personality traits in these physicians that lead to behaviors that are consistent across the industry that demonstrate success. These personality traits can also potentially link into competencies already developed by individual organizations regarding their unique leadership definitions.


Use of the Caliper Assessment

The Caliper Profile is a robust assessment tool that measures 23 different personality traits and motivational factors that have been found to be highly predictive of job performance. In working with over 30,000 companies over the past 40 years, Caliper has consistently found that the employees who perform at high levels are those who are in work environments and positions that are congruent with their personality and motivational strengths.

One’s personality and set of motivational dynamics provides the psychological mechanism that gives rise to the observable behaviors that will lead to success in a job. In short, Caliper assesses the congruence between an individual’s personality and the tasks, work environment, management style, culture, and expected outcomes the individual will experience on the job. The more congruency observed, the more likely the individual will prove to be a success.

AnaLysis of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Top Leadership Composite

Sixty-seven individuals, deemed by their respective companies or Amrop Battalia Winston as being successful or high-potential physician leaders, were identified as potential participants of this study. To help guide the identification and selection of potential study participants, we have defined high performance as a leader within the context of the following job-related behaviors listed by Caliper and Amrop Battalia Winston.

These include:

  • Confidently expressing ideas and opinions
  • Motivating others to perform at their best
  • Building alignment and influencing others from various functional areas
  • Recognizing problems, issues and opportunities
  • Thinking strategically to promote growth, process improvement or in the attempt of gaining competitive advantage
  • Implementing problem-solving strategies
  • Taking action that challenges status quo
  • Willing to make tough decisions
  • Being persistent

The study participants come from a number of organizations within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, including such companies as:

  • Amgen Inc.
  • Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • AstraZeneca International
  • Merck & Co.
  • Wyeth Pharmaceuticals
  • Merck Serono
  • NovoNordisk Inc.
  • Novartis Pharmaceuticals
  • Pfizer
  • Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals
  • Roche Pharmaceuticals


The positions held by these individuals represent functional areas where physicians typically are employed, (e.g., Clinical Research, Medical Affairs, etc.) in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, and included such titles as:

  • Senior Director
  • Executive Director
  • Assistant/Associate Vice President
  • Vice President
  • Therapeutic Head
  • Chief Medical Officer

Each of the 67 potential participants was provided an explanation of the study goals and was asked to participate. Each later received an email requesting him/her to complete the Caliper Profile assessment. The email sent contained an electronic link that brought the participant to a secure website to complete the assessment on-line. While administration of the Caliper Profile is not timed, time to complete is approximately 75 to 90 minutes. At the end of the data collection phase of this study, 39 of the 67 had completed the Caliper Profile. These 39 individuals served as the final study sample.


Caliper Personality and Cognitive Results

Included at the end of this report (in Appendix A) is a glossary of Caliper terms which includes definitions of the personality and cognitive traits measured by the Caliper Profile. Raw scores were used for all data analyses. All raw scores were averaged, and these averages were converted to percentiles based upon US norms for purposes of illustration and interpretation of results.

The bars on the graphs represent a half standard deviation from the mean of the group on each trait. Given that the 50% mark (50th percentile) is the average of the general population for each attribute, the mean scores that fell well above, or below, 50% are attributes that warrant consideration because they deviate most from the general population. Moreover, in looking at all the bars on the graph, wider bars indicate a greater degree of variance between the scores of the members of the group, whereas narrower bars indicate a lesser degree of variance between the individual scores. Therefore, Caliper scales with the narrowest bars are those for which the members of the group are similar. Traits with a relatively large amount of variance within the same group (indicated by wider bars) may not be as critical.

As can be seen in Figure 1, this group of successful physician leaders scored above average in:

  • Assertiveness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Ego Drive
  • Risk Taking
  • Urgency
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Idea Orientation
  • Urgency


This group scored below average in:

  • Cautiousness
  • Accommodation
  • Skepticism
  • Thoroughness
  • Self-Structure
  • External Structure

Summary of Personality Dynamics


The dynamics exhibited by this group of successful physician leaders suggest that they are comfortable and effective in situations that call for a straightforward communication style. They are apt to be highly assertive in communicating their ideas and in championing their opinions. They will tend to defend their decisions and opinions in circumstances when faced with resistance from staff, colleagues, etc. They should be effective in clearly conveying performance expectations to others and will generally be comfortable taking a leadership role in situations in which they need to be direct in addressing performance issues. While not welcoming of conflict, they will never-the-less be willing to engage in difficult or uncomfortable conversations, as situations dictate. They exhibit a moderate level of backup Aggressiveness, which suggests that they will usually be willing to bring a constructive emotional element to the interaction/discussion when faced with pushback or resistance. These dynamics also suggest that they are highly motivated to win buy in from others. Members of this group, therefore, should be highly effective in communicating the company’s vision, direction, and goals clearly in ways that are compelling and easily understood. Taken together, these dynamics should serve them well in inspiring confidence and engagement from their teams and the larger organization.

Their higher levels of Risk-Taking and Urgency suggest that they will be biased more toward action than deliberation, and that they are probably perceived as strong, decisive leaders. While this tendency toward action should make them rather results oriented, this need for action coupled with a lower level of Cautiousness suggests that they may miss some opportunities to think through and consider potential consequences and alternative courses before being moved to action.


On the whole, the members of this leadership group seem cordial, but not necessarily focused on taking the social initiative in every circumstance. They can establish a basic rapport and are apt to be fairly aware of others’ needs, concerns, and reactions. However, they may often use this information more for work-related and problem-solving purposes than as a means of really trying to get to know people on an individualized basis. The members of this group are apt to be much more goal focused than relationship focused. This is highly consistent with research findings that suggest effective managers are less accommodating and are not afraid to anger a person or two in the interest of getting goals accomplished. Since these individuals may not be highly motivated by the « thank you » or necessarily be focused on winning others’ approval, they might be selectively accommodating or prone to waiting until their help is sought out.

Problem Solving/Decision Making

This group of successful physician leaders exhibits a very strong ability to see patterns in data/information, recognize cause and effect relationships, and to apply previous learning and experience to solve new problems in differing contexts. This should allow them to quickly see how new ideas can be integrated into the business model. They demonstrate strong potential to assimilate complex information quickly, to recognize key issues to be addressed, and to understand how one problem impacts another. That is, they should be adept at analyzing trends in the business environment and leverage that information to generate innovative solutions and target change initiatives. They are likely to tap into outside information sources to expand the scope and range of their analyses and should have a good « pulse » on core issues. Their strong conceptual thinking and abstract reasoning ability, coupled with a high degree of risk proclivity, suggests that they will often create opportunities for their companies by challenging conventional thinking and perceived wisdom. They will often champion innovative projects, and will be willing to defend initiatives in the face of resistance.

While this group has strong dynamics related to strategic planning, creative problem solving, and initiating positive change, they also exhibit a rather low level of detail orientation. That is, this group may not take personal ownership of project plans and the overall quality of work produced, especially for projects or tasks that they do not consider to be high priorities.

Personal Organization/Time Management

The dynamics exhibited by this group of successful physician leaders suggest that they are able to juggle concurrent priorities. That is, they appear to be more comfortable multi-tasking and dealing with a wide range of issues, rather than focusing deeply on any single problem or issue. While these leaders may tend to multi-task and push themselves to get a lot done, they may struggle in determining key or in what order they should complete various activities, and may often be distractible. Their high levels of Risk-Taking and Urgency, coupled with low levels of Cautiousness and Thoroughness, suggest that this group will be very results oriented, and biased toward quick action rather than excessive deliberation. This group is apt to have a higher than average comfort level in ambiguous or ill-defined situations. However, these same dynamics make them less likely to thrive in highly structured, closely managed work environments.


The goal of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of what traits are most relevant to, and support successful leadership behaviors for an industry physician. These data reflect a clear omnibus model of personal attributes that are most related to physician leadership success in the industry. A comparison of job candidates’ personality dynamics to this model of success, along with consideration of role-specific, company, and culture-fit factors, will result in more accurate assessment of job fit, professional development needs, and overall potential for success. This information provides the industry as a whole with data to improve selection, on-boarding, retention and development of their physician population.


Caliper Corporation (2005). The qualities that distinguish women leaders.

Giberson, T., Resick, C.J., & Marcus, W.D. (2005). Embedding leader characteristics: An examination of homogeneity of personality and values in organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1002-1010.

Hambrick, D.C. & Mason, P.A. (1984). Upper echelons: The organization as a reflection of its top managers. Academy of Management Review, 9, 193-206.

House, R.J., Spangler, W.D., & Woycke, J. (1991). Personality and charisma in the U.S. presidency: A psychological theory of leader effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 36, 364-396.

Judge, T.A., Bono, J.E., Ilies, R. & Gerhardt, M.W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 765-780.

Resick, C.J., Whitman, D.S., Weingarden, S.M., Hiller, N.J. (2009). The bright-side and the dark-side of CEO personality: Examining core self-evaluations, narcissism, transformational leadership, and strategic influence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 1365-1381.

Their higher levels of Risk-Taking and Urgency suggest that they will be biased more toward action than deliberation, and that they are probably perceived as strong, decisive leaders. While this tendency toward action should make them rather results oriented, this need for action coupled with a lower level of Cautiousness suggests that they may miss some opportunities to think through and consider potential consequences and alternative courses before being moved to action.

Appendix A: Glossary of Terms

Abstract Reasoning: The ability to detect mathematical and logical patterns in various series and sequences of numbers and letters. Abstract reasoning ability is a sub-set of intelligence and an important component in problem solving. Those with higher levels tend to be somewhat more expansive in their ability to handle complex or multidimensional problems. Those with lower levels tend to be more concrete in their approach to problem solving.

Accommodation: Measures affability, or friendliness and openness in personal interactions; a willingness to be accommodating and helpful. Individuals who have high scores along this dimension tend to be accommodating and service oriented. Having a need to be liked, these people respond to recognition and work hard to please others. They will usually seek out situations in which they can demonstrate their compassion.

Aggressiveness: Measures domination and ascendance over events and others. Individuals who have high scores may tend to be « heavy-handed » in their approach to « getting their way. » While some degree of aggressiveness is valuable, it must be tempered with a good level of self-discipline, empathy and thoroughness, if it is to be used in a positive manner.

Assertiveness: Indicates the positive forcefulness a person will use to control a situation; it is the ability to express one’s thoughts forcefully and consistently, without having to rely on anger. Those scoring high in this quality will often be able to be direct and straightforward even when addressing a somewhat unreceptive audience. Individuals scoring low on this measure may be less comfortable expressing themselves forcefully and may back down or be reactive in certain situations.

Cautiousness: The degree to which a person is hesitant, thorough and careful in making decisions. This characteristic relates to the speed and care with which one evaluates situations or materials and takes action. High scores on this trait could indicate overcautious or overly analytical decision-makers or action takers. Those scoring extremely low on this attribute could be more impulsive or intuitive in their approach to decision-making.

Composite: A composite refers to statistical analyses that are performed on a sample of Caliper scores on no less than five individuals. Specifically, the mean and variability are calculated for each trait measured by Caliper. The results of these analyses, which are performed on Caliper raw scores, are converted to percentiles for purposes of graphic illustration and interpretation. A composite can be performed on the scores of individuals with different job titles, and at different performance levels on the same job. Because performance metrics are not used to define or characterize the sample of individuals in the composite, a composite should not be confused with the results of a Caliper Benchmark and Validation Study. Its value lies in presenting a « snapshot » of the Caliper results of a group of individuals in a particular sample.

Ego-Drive: Indicates the inner need to persuade others as a means of gaining personal gratification. The ego–driven individual wants and needs successful persuasion as a powerful enhancement of his or her ego. Ego–drive is not ambition, aggression, energy, or even willingness to work hard. Rather, it is an internal gratification that comes from getting another person to say « yes. »

Ego-Strength/Resilience: Resilience is the self-confidence and ability to handle rejection and accept criticism in a manner that is positive and growth oriented. Individuals with a healthy, intact ego have a positive picture of themselves. Liking and accepting the way they are allows them to function at or near the top of their capacity. On the other hand, individuals scoring low on this trait may be preoccupied with conflict or feelings of inferiority, thus reducing their effectiveness.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to accurately sense the reactions of another person. An empathic individual is able to accurately and objectively perceive another person’s feelings without necessarily agreeing with them. This invaluable, indispensable ability to obtain powerful feedback enables an individual to appropriately adjust his or her own behavior in order to deal effectively with other people.

External Structure: Measures the degree to which a person is sensitive to the environment and the structure that exists. Individuals scoring high in external structure are sensitive to externally-defined rules, policies and procedures. They operate with some sensitivity to authority and will generally prefer a working environment in which direction is set.

Flexibility: An indicator of flexibility/inflexibility. Individuals who rank high in this quality are generally willing to modify their approach as changing conditions or circumstances require. They can easily « change gears » to respond to the input and feedback of others. Those who score lower may be more tenacious in holding onto their views and less willing to modify their position.

Gregariousness: Measures gregariousness or buoyancy, and overall optimism. It reflects a comfort with people and crowds. Individuals who are gregarious are extroverted, ebullient and optimistic. Gregarious people are outgoing and enjoy working with large groups. It can be described as surface friendliness – a genuine enjoyment of social interaction.

Idea Orientation: Measures originality or creativity. Individuals who score high on ideational items show an orientation to creative problem solving, idea generation and concept development. Lower scores may indicate a preference for practical or concrete solutions.

N: The total number of scores, or values, in a sample (or population).

Percentile: A value indicating the percentage of cases falling at or below that score. For example, the 50th percentile indicates that half of the scores fell at or below that score.

Population (N): Consists of all members of a group of individuals who are alike on at least one specified characteristic. For example, all employees at Company XYZ are the population of employees at Company XYZ.

Risk Taking: Determines an individual’s willingness to take necessary risks. It is a sense of adventure; an optimistic desire to try new things. It does not necessarily imply recklessness (i.e., one can be a cautious risk-taker). Individuals scoring low on this scale tend to prefer conventional or well-established methods as opposed to those in which failure might occur.

SD (standard deviation): Measures the spread or dispersion of scores around the mean in a distribution of scores (sample or population). The larger the standard deviation, the more the scores in the distribution vary around the mean. The smaller the standard deviation, the less the scores vary around the mean.

Self-Structure: Measures an individual’s ability to determine and direct his/her own priorities. Individuals ranking high in this area are self-defining. They typically establish and manage their own agendas. Those scoring low in this area tend to enjoy variety, can be distractible, and may require some direction to gain focus.

Skepticism: A concern with the attitudes of others towards oneself. Individuals scoring high on this quality tend to be suspicious of the motives of others. In many roles a degree of skepticism can be helpful in making correct judgments. Low levels on this scale generally suggest a degree of naiveté.

Sociability: Measures sociability: the ability and desire to be with and work with people. Individuals who rank high in this quality enjoy being with and working with others. More specifically, they relate well in one-on-one and group situations. They are likely to have a large circle of close friends.

Thoroughness: Measures an individual’s attention to detail and tendency to persevere. Individuals who score high in thoroughness tend to be careful and will take « ownership » of the jobs assigned to them. Those who score lower may be more expeditious than thorough in style.

Urgency: A measure of an individual’s sense of immediacy. Urgency is an inner-directed and focused need to get things done. Extremely high scores indicate impatience or unrealistic expectations. Low levels indicate patience and potential complacency.

The information provided in this report is based on data developed from the Caliper assessment and data received from the Client on individuals in the target position. It should be interpreted in light of other information that is available about the individuals and should not be used as the sole basis for making a hiring, developmental or promotional decision.

Copyright © 2011 Caliper Corporation. All rights reserved.