Case in point: Ron Dollens, former CEO of Guidant. As Joe Mandato, managing director of DeNovo Ventures, put it, "Ron made
decisions quickly, sometimes with only a modest amount of data. He often went out on a limb, but more often than not, he made
the right call." Mandato should know: He formerly was CEO of one of the medical device companies that Dollens spun out from
Eli Lilly to create a new entity.
Like all careful risk takers, Dollens believed in data-driven decision making. "He knew more about what was going on in any
of the operating units of the company than almost anyone else in management," Mandato says.
Think about risk in terms of two factors: impact and seriousness. A smart risk taker asks, "What do we stand to lose if we
don't take this step?" And: "What could go wrong if we do?" "How serious will the consequences be?"
Dollens' calculated risks certainly paid off: The $25 billion paid by Johnson & Johnson for the company is 25 times Guidant's
valuation when it went public in 1994.
A good leader also encourages a risk-tolerant culture, which means avoiding the nailing-for-failing mentality. "In Germany,
if you have ever worked for a company that went bankrupt, you are stigmatized," says E&Y's Morrison. "Contrast that with Silicon
Valley, where if your resume doesn't include at least one failed company, people don't take you seriously."
3. The Agile Reinventer
Think of today's great leader as the ancient Phoenix, capable of rising from its own ashes—not just once, but many times.
Casey McGlynn, chairman of the life sciences practice at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, points to Robert Reiss, head
of Interventional Technology (IVT), as an excellent example of a turn-on-a-dime leader. IVT began as a phacoemulsification
company. But when Reiss realized that it wasn't going to succeed as such, he shifted the company's focus to cardiovascular,
and eventually turned IVT into a manufacturer of the Barath balloon. He found a way to manufacture this balloon at low cost
and high reliability. Eventually, IVT was sold to Boston Scientific for over $600 million.
4. The Focused Innovator
Focus is as important as creativity. Given the need for speed, and the opportunity-rich environment, it's easy to lose sight
of the advantages of keeping within the core capabilities of the business. Genentech is a textbook example of a company that
hasn't succumbed to the temptation.
Genomic Health's CEO's vision was contagious. I had to be a part of it; it was like a calling. How could I not help to make
individualized treatment planning a reality for cancer patients? Kimberly Popovits
As Kimberly Popovits, president and COO of Genomic Health Incorporated and a former senior player at Genentech, points
out, "At Genentech, the focus became predominantly oncology, even though there were other therapeutic areas that presented
Popovits and her colleagues are applying the insight at her current company. "At Genomic Health, we want to be the best in
the world at analyzing tumor tissue and developing genomic-based diagnostic tests for cancer. Even with endless resources,
you need to decide on a core competency and not stray from it if you want to become the world leader in your field."