What Does It Really Take? - Pharmaceutical Executive

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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


"Sue has a natural ability to determine who has the most relevant information to help her make a particular decision," Simon says. "She is also an insightful questioner and can extract, with just a few well-chosen questions, the critical data. By the time she has elicited the information and analyzed it, she is completely confident in making her recommendations—and they have been excellent ones for Genentech."

The decision-making process is only as deep and rich as the ideas that go into it. Autocratic decision makers operate at a competitive disadvantage. They and their organizations are the sum total of the leaders' ideas.

Given today's challenges, better to cast the decision-making net far wider than before. Good leaders seek outside counsel. Ross Jaffe of Versant Ventures uses an analogy from physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, to make the point: "When you are inside an organization, you are 'riding on the electron': You have a good sense of your trajectory, but you lose your sense of where you are in three-dimensional space. What you need are people who can help you balance the view you are getting from the trenches with what is going on in the broader, outside world."

The best leaders surround themselves with people, often outside board members or consultants, whose observations can help them enrich their perspective.

9. The Person of Integrity

In any discussion of effective leadership, few words come up with greater force and frequency than "integrity." It's the social cement of the leader-follower dynamic. Making a financial investment in someone is the ultimate leap of faith—and trust. It's where leadership theory meets reality.

When deciding where to invest his company's capital, Joe Mandato of DeNovo Ventures puts a premium on an honest, trustworthy company leader. He asks:

  • Does the person know and acknowledge what he or she doesn't know?
  • When the person describes the investment opportunity, is there extreme hyperbole or is the focus on data? And is the data being presented in a rational way?
  • Does the person have in-depth knowledge of the venture, or are they just reading from a script?
  • Is he or she willing to listen to and accept advice?

If all else fails, try judging trust levels in a leader or the company by Ross Jaffe's sleep test: "I've had companies that were doing poorly, but I didn't lose sleep because I trusted the people who were running them," he explains. "I can, however, recall several instances in which companies were making good progress, but I wasn't sleeping well. I just didn't have confidence in the leaders and was waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Jaffe considers honesty—with themselves and others—a make-or-break quality in leaders. Being able to acknowledge the gap between where you want the company to be and where it actually is takes a lot of moral fortitude.

"Those who can't face the true issues in their company, especially if they are the result of their own actions, will never be as successful as those who face reality, accept responsibility, and figure out how to move on," Jaffe says.

Trust and value creation aren't typically linked, but as Sartori points out, integrity is about creating value. "A person of high integrity says to him- or herself, 'I am here to create value for others—for our clients and patients, for my colleagues, for our investors, and for myself—so I can learn and contribute,'" he says. "The result will be trust from all these groups, and they will help you."


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