3 Superpowers

By Chad Thompson, Ph.D.

Over the past two years at Mix Talent, we have assessed the personality profile of 115 front-line sales leaders (typically called “District Managers”) from various pharma/biotech organizations.

This dataset included “finalist” candidates who progressed through a number of previous steps in the selection process. As a key part of our recruiting process, our consulting team partners with our clients to use this data to select top talent and leverage the findings during early onboarding and development.

We mined our data for insights and found three key “superpowers” these leaders can use to engage their teams in this unprecedented, scary, and ambiguous environment. Additionally, candidates who were ultimately hired by our clients were more likely to demonstrate these behaviors than candidates who were not hired.

For those interested in the research methodology and tool used in our analysis, refer to the final section of this article.

Superpower #1: Caring

In the assessment we used, Caring refers to the extent to which an individual proactively demonstrates concern for others. It is not hard to see how this demonstration of empathy and compassion could be particularly important in this crisis.

In normal times, leaders who score high on Caring are likely to be effective coaches because they do not assume “no news is good news” and actively reach out to their team, see how they are doing, and ask if there is something they can do to help them succeed.

This mentality extends outside of the job, as well, and these managers are typically demonstrating genuine interest and concern for how their team is doing in their non-work lives.

Superpower #2: Trusting

Assuming positive intent and believing people want to do good work is a hallmark of individuals with high Trusting scores.

With travel limited or non-existent, leaders are not able to ride along with their team members. They cannot have “eyes on” what their team is doing and must trust they are continuing to put forth effort.

Demonstrating trust often yields feelings of empowerment, which is even more important in these ambiguous times where individuals can feel unable to impact the environment around them.

Additionally, giving trust earns trust – using this superpower helps establish psychologically-safe relationships within a team, an environment in which feedback is more likely to be given freely, and important skills developed.

Superpower #3: Optimistic

Anyone in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry understands how difficult the commercial environment can be, especially with challenges around reimbursement, access to HCPs, and a tight talent market.

Add in the uncertainty, ambiguity, and fear many are feeling in the last few weeks and this tendency to remain positive and believe in a brighter future becomes even more critical.

When their teams run into difficulties, these managers do not pretend the challenge does not exist – instead, they acknowledge it, communicate a belief it can be overcome, and work with their team to create and implement solutions.

What If These Behaviors Are Not Natural For Me?

These findings are based on averages and certainly do not apply to all front-line sales leaders in pharma/biotech. Individuals with these “superpowers” demonstrate them more naturally and with less effort.

That said, these behaviors can be developed and demonstrated even if a leader may not do so naturally. Intentional effort, building workarounds and reminders, and being self-aware about one’s tendencies can all make a difference.

For example, if demonstrating the behaviors described in the Caring superpower do not come naturally for a leader, he or she may purposefully schedule two or three five-minute holds in their day to remind them to call a team member just to check in.


Caring. Trusting. Optimistic.

It might seem like an overstatement to call these superpowers, but from the perspective of a pharma/biotech sales representative looking for leadership, purposeful demonstration of these behaviors may feel that way.  

Our analysis of front-line sales leaders in pharma/biotech suggests these individuals may be uniquely well-suited to employ these superpowers to lead their teams in this challenging time. 

By leaning on their inclination to proactively demonstrate concern and empathy for their teams, trust and assume positive intent, and remain optimistic about the future, these leaders can be a source of support and motivation.

Tools and Research Methodology

The Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ32r) was used to assess candidates. This toolmeasures 32 work-related behavioral areas such as competitiveness, decisiveness, emotional control, and detail consciousness.

Our analysis examined differences in average scores between a broad population of 1,785 managers from a variety of industries and the 115 front-line pharma/biotech sales leaders we have assessed in partnership with our clients. We conducted unpaired t-tests to examine the statistical significance of differences between the two groups.

The results in the table below indicate the differences between groups are statistically significant.

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