What Does It Really Take? - Pharmaceutical Executive


What Does It Really Take?
A military historian once said that a great commander must show himself to his followers only through a mask—a mask that marks him as the leader they need. Today, pharma leaders, behind their masks, must possess a certain substance.

Pharmaceutical Executive

5. The Inspirational Visionary

Great leaders have a sense of urgency about staffing their organizations, but they aren't interested in just filling jobs. They try and identify superior talent. Casey Mcglynn
Go back to the time when gene splicing was in its infancy. Most people thought the commercial possibilities were a pipe dream. Not Bob Swanson, co-founder of Genentech. As Nick Simon, formerly general partner at MPM Capital and now managing director of Clarus Ventures, tells the story, Swanson saw what others could not. He convinced Tom Perkins, of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, to give Genentech $100,000 to found the company. "Everyone doubted them," Simon recalls. "The entire industry thought it was just going to be an academic experiment, but Swanson saw possibilities they were completely blind to."

A strong vision alone doesn't guarantee success, however. The leader's vision must be compellingly communicated so others embrace it as their own. By all accounts, that's where Bob Swanson excelled, and it's one of the qualities Popovits most admires in Randy Scott, CEO of Genomic Health.

It was Scott who lured Popovits from a top position at Genentech. "As he spoke to me about his friend's cancer and his frustration with the way treatment decisions were made, I realized that this wasn't a business or a career for him; it was a passion that consumed him," Popovitz says. Scott's vision was contagious, she says. "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?"

Genentech's Art Levinson is another visionary who has been able to inspire his troops with his fervor. Known in the industry for his passion for oncology, he has a way of including everyone in the company's mission and its implementation. Popovits and others who have worked with him say that his focus is never on "I," always on "we."

6. The Team Player

Everyone doubted the commercial possibilities of gene splicing. But Bob Swanson of Genentech saw what no one else did. Nick Simon
Narcissistic leaders build teams that are little more than reflecting pools of their own images. It's not an effective model, given the challenges ahead. Leaders that simply fill-in-the-gaps, as Mel Engle of Dey points out, "don't typically add value, and they tend to merely reinforce a leader's shortcomings." The leader who is an effective team builder looks for complementary capabilities.

Strong team builders are centered and secure; they avoid the paranoia trap fostered by churn and change. James L. Taylor, president and CEO of Carl Zeiss Meditec, recalls one executive for whom he worked years ago. "He was the best day-to-day manager, the best problem solver I had ever met. But he wasn't comfortable delegating to his team because, as he once told me, 'I just don't ever want to get screwed.' And maybe he never did, but he also never got the best from his people."

Great leaders make great personnel pickers. As Casey McGlynn, of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, observes, "They have a sense of urgency about staffing the organization, but they aren't interested in just filling jobs. They try to identify superior talent."


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