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


10. The Greener of Future Generations


Leaders at mid-size and smaller companies must create similar leadership-development opportunities to those of their larger counterparts. James Taylor
To the extent that leadership is about protecting and growing an organization's resources in the face of volatility, great leaders invest themselves in developing future leadership potential. They treat succession not just as some human resources exercise but also as a personal priority.

Ken Freeman, for example, distinguished himself, both at Corning and at Quest Diagnostics. "Ken made a commitment to create a succession plan and pass on a solid company to the next generation of leaders," Sartori says. "He understood that it's not enough to hire the best people. You have to engage them, connect with them."

Unfortunately, Freeman is not the norm. "In most pharma companies, management spends hours each month reviewing the status of drugs in progress; far less time is spent reviewing the status of people in progress," Sartori says. "One exception occurred early in the merger of Ciba and Sandoz that formed Novartis. In contrast to the practice of the predecessor companies, CEO Dan Vasella initiated in-depth reviews of the senior talent in the organization and [looked at] how to make the most of it going forward. Today, those reviews are ongoing and ingrained in the culture of the company."

While it is unquestionably easier for larger healthcare companies to free up resources for leadership training, adept leaders of mid-size and smaller companies create similar development opportunities. "You have to decide that bringing leaders along is a priority and be creative in the way you accomplish it," says James Taylor from Carl Zeiss Meditec. Taylor selected five or six people at his company whom he believes have a high degree of management potential. He mentors them, gives them direction, and encourages them to drop by for informal chats. For the small company without a lot of development dollars, it's a great way to keep the people pipeline filled.

Forward-looking leaders know that leadership development requires not just training, but also, as Genomic Health's Popovits states, "playing your bench." This, in turn, requires careful planning and providing the right venues for having future leaders apply their skills. At Genomic Health, management is committed to having development plans for its up-and-coming talent. Human capital is a frequently discussed topic at meetings.

J. Kevin Day is principal of executive search firm Day & Associates. He can be reached at


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