Will They Say You Were a Scrooge or a Saint? - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Will They Say You Were a Scrooge or a Saint?
Think your legacy might be lampooned? It's not too late to change how you'll be remembered.


Pharmaceutical Executive



Sander A. Flaum
This piece has nothing to do with the Blackstone Group or its CEO, Stephen A. Schwarzman. Well, maybe just a little.

As we've read in the recent past, Mr. Schwarzman is executing a Blackstone IPO. He'll collect $930 million from the offering and will be left with a 23 percent stake in the company, valued at about $7.8 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. His partner–out-of-the-spotlight Peter Peterson—will collect $1.9 billion in the IPO and retain a 4 percent stake, worth about $1.35 billion, again as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

As a young product group manager at Lederle Laboratories in the late seventies, I was present at a talk by our president, Bob Luciano, on values, purpose, and mission. Though he left Lederle (all too soon, I say) to take on the CEO slot at Schering-Plough, his message to us that day comes to mind poignantly after the barrage of Blackstone IPO stories.

The question Bob posed to us was, "What is the legacy you want to leave? When you're ready to hang it up, how do you want to be remembered?" Of course, you'd like your family to remember you as being a loving significant other, a caring and sympathetic parent, and an empathetic human being.

For leaders-in-the-making, the tougher part perhaps comes when you consider your professional legacy. What did I really accomplish during my career? What do the people who worked with me, for me, or over me think of my manner, style, and achievements? What did I give back to them? What did I demonstrate about values or, put another way, what was the essence of my value tutorial?

In my own case, I'm extraordinarily proud that my career was and is being spent in the pharmaceutical industry. It is, unquestionably, the only entity that discovers products and treatments from which every person on earth benefits. Are there some policies we need to modify? Yes. Were there some people in it who didn't deserve the mantle of leadership? Sure! But, overall, this industry can really boast about an unequalled legacy.

As for other legacy builders, consider Michael Eisner, a tough boss for sure. But look at his accomplishments at Disney: Broadway hits, movie creativity, theme parks, and so on. Consider also Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Meg Whitman at eBay, Andy Grove of Intel, Steve Jobs at Apple, Microsoft's Bill Gates, former CitiGroup CEO Sandy Weill, and the legendary Jack Welch of GE.

How about some great political figures that have left us legacies for which we'll always be grateful? Harry Truman, for the Marshall Plan; Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy, for tearing down the walls of segregation; and, of course, the greatest of them all, Abraham Lincoln, for overruling his own Cabinet to go to battle against the Confederacy to end slavery.

Given all of this, one has to wonder about the legacies of those whose sole motivation is making egregious amounts of money and being celebrated for it with their photographs in the newspapers.

Building a memorable legacy is, to this writer at least, the single most important thing we can do during our time on this earth. Legacy building is about doing A+ work, nine to five (or more). When your boss says, "I need it by the end of the day," and you're not fully satisfied with the project yet, it's your obligation as a "builder" to say, "I'm not happy with it yet. I need another 24 hours."

It's really tough to do the right thing all the time. We all miss the mark at times. Too often, we forget how we want to be remembered. Having messed up many times myself, my advice to you is to get yourself down into that easy chair on the weekend or on vacation and contemplate: What legacy do I want to leave?


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