The “Big Idea” article in this month’s Harvard Business Review talks about the importance of having leaders who have experience or who can work in business, government and social spheres.  Take a look at this brief preview and hopefully it will engage you enough to get and study the full article.  The key concept is that the problems the world is facing can seldom be isolated to one of the areas and that true leaders today must be able to move comfortably between the three different areas.

Tri-sector leadership is not something that automatically happens.  It takes careful career transitions and long-term planning.  It may mean balancing a set of competing motives such as making money and developing a stable economic situation with taking the chance to work in government or a nonprofit.  Skills need to be developed that can be utilized in each of the three areas and there also needs to be some skills attained that are very specific to only one of the areas.  Networks need to be developed in each of the sectors so that there are sets of “go to” people in each area that can help with strategic initiatives in each area.  This is just a taste of the concept but with some research and introspection I think you can start to recognize the depth of the idea.

Take a look at some of the people who have been able to move between the sectors and you will begin to see the importance of this concept.  Look at the way Michael Bloomberg has moved from business into government.  Bill Gates moved from business into the social sphere with a huge play in the government area as well.  President Obama started out in the nonprofit world before moving to government.  Some move in and out of different sectors and some just constantly float between them.

This is a concept that is critical for the pharmaceutical industry because we exist and survive squarely in all three areas.  Yes, the industry is clearly a profit-making enterprise with one significant goal being to enrich the shareholders.  But at the same time, it is recognized that the industry is heavily regulated by government and this in so many ways is a make or break situation.  On a more grandeur note, you might say that both the government and the industry are working together to constantly improve healthcare for everyone in the country.  Likewise, there are significant connections between the industry and the advocacy and support groups that work with the patients who use the drugs the industry discovers and commercializes.  This triple-sector relationship is prevalent in every therapeutic area but is perhaps most visible in areas such as HIV-AIDS, vaccines and cancer.

On a more personal note, how would you rate your skills in each of the three areas?  Have you designed your career path to be able to touch each of the three areas?  Do you understand or have you worked for a nonprofit?  Have you served on a nonprofit board?  How closely connected are you with the politicians in your area?  Do you understand how things work?  Have you studied how the industry and government connects and are you an expert on the rules and regulations that control the way the industry operates?  These are all important questions and if you want to become a true leader in the industry or in the broader healthcare world you might want to think about these concepts and develop a personal growth plan.

The HBR article concludes with the fact that this triple-strength issue is an area where the US and Europe are falling behind China, Brazil, Singapore and other countries where the integration of the three sectors is more embraced.  This may be a big opportunity on both the personal and the corporate level!

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