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

Great leaders also know that with the right people you can move mountains—and even ho-hum technology. Ross Jaffe, managing director of Versant Ventures, used to think it was all about the technology, the clinical issues. Now he realizes that success in the healthcare industry really depends on the team's ability to execute. "A C-level team can screw up an A-level technology or opportunity, while an A-level team can make a resounding success of a C-level one,"Jaffe says. "An A team focuses on what it needs to do to achieve success, while a C team gets so caught up in its own issues that it can't possibly be effective."

7. The World Citizen

By the time most American healthcare executives get international experience, they are in their thirties or forties, or older. Europeans grow up surrounded by multiples cultures. Paul Sartori
Paul Sartori, vice president, organizational development and human resources for Focus Diagnostics, recalls the response Jack Welch gave when an interviewer asked him what kind of person should succeed him at GE: The next leader shouldn't look like him. Welch was born and raised in the United States and had always worked here; GE needed a truly global leader—a citizen, not only of the United States, but of the world.

It's no different with healthcare companies. "Attitude" is a strategic disadvantage, especially in an environment focused on forging successful partnerships with local scientists and businesses in China, India, and other emerging markets. Think about the current generation of leaders in healthcare. How many of them can move fluidly across different social, business, and regulatory environments? Sartori finds European healthcare executives to be much more globally apt than their American counterparts.

"Americans come out of one massive market that they tend to confuse with the rest of the world," Sartori says. "By the time they get some international experience, they are in their thirties or forties, or older, while Europeans grow up surrounded by multiple cultures."

One of the great assets of a global leader is the ability to reach out across geographies, cultures, and nationalities to touch others. The hub-and-spoke approach to communication, where all messages radiate from a central locus of wisdom, is obsolete. Good global communicators not only "show up" well on all the channels open to them in the modern enterprise, but they put in place processes and protocols for encouraging information, issues, and different perspectives to bubble up from throughout the network.

Sartori points to Jan Leslie, who headed up GlaxoSmithKline, and Dan Vasella of Novartis as examples of leaders with the background and experience to really connect with other cultures.

8. The Skillful Decision Maker

When you are inside an organization, you are 'riding the electron': you have a good sense of your trajectory, but you lose your sense of where you are in three-dimensional space. You need people who can help you balance the view you are getting from the trenches with what is going on in the broader, outside world. Ross Jaffe
A drug's efficacy or side effects come into question and FDA, the media, and the public want answers—fast. When a new product for a novel target becomes available, do you invest or walk away? Hesitate too long, and you may lose out.

It's a familiar moment of truth. The ability to make the right decisions is a defining leadership quality. Good decisions create halos; bad ones cast shadows over a company and those who lead it. What most often separates a good decision maker from the pack is the ability to access, assess, and act quickly upon information.

This is why Clarus Ventures' Nick Simon points without hesitation to Sue Hellman, president, product development of Genentech, as a role-model decision maker. Hellman excels at tapping into the collective brainpower of her colleagues to assess the potential of new products.


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