Critical Attributes in Leaders at Various Stages of Leadership Journey


EPPIC, an entirely volunteer driven, non-profit organization, found with a mission to create a forum to leverage entrepreneurship, mentoring, and networking opportunities in life sciences, celebrated its 15th anniversary, at TiE office, in Santa Clara.  The event, sponsored by Genentech, was attended by 110 life science professionals, and served as an early introduction to 2014 Eppic Annual Conference, scheduled for February 1, 2014, at Westin, South San Francisco.  The agenda for this anniversary event included 3 excellent panels and concluded with a keynote by Ann Lee, Senior Vice President of Global Pharma Technology Development at Genentech/Roche.

Here is the brief synopsis of the keynote.  Lee shared her own personal leadership journey and discussed the critical skills necessary at various stages of leadership for anyone following a similar career path.  During entry into the professional world, as a research fellow, it is critical to have technical expertise and grit to take the initiative and making contributions of value.  On the next step in the leadership journey, at the level of Director, one assumes greater share of managerial responsibilities and providing effective leadership to the teams.  At this time, hiring the best, becomes a critical responsibility.  As one progresses to Senior Director level, ability to communicate effectively with the seniors, becomes crucial.  This is a transition from technical mindset to be able to hone in on key points and communicate them effectively.  It also becomes important to focus on providing guidance and developing others as it is increasing not about you along, but increasingly it is about others in the team.  Lee emphasized that authenticity becomes critical as people will watch for congruence between what you say and what you do.  Greater self-awareness will enable greater authenticity, said Lee.  At VP and Senior VP level, one requires courage because one may be called on to make many tough decisions including work force reductions, killing a multi-million dollar project that may be eating up resources and so on.  Principle centered approach can effectively guide a person in making those critical decisions.  And just as one influences an organization with their decisions, organizational values also play a key role and guide the decisions, of its leaders.  For instance, Genentech takes great pride in being patient-centered company and decisions are often made after considering the impact on patients.  At this stage, leaders also have to focus on strategy and change and have to lead with a long-term vision, as opposed to fighting fires.   People look to the leaders for inspiration.  Mindfulness or daily meditation can help a leader be more effective, said Lee.

Lee then discussed Genentech/Roche’s commitment to diversity.  (In addition to recruitment for biotech and medical device companies, I also offer corporate trainings on diversity and global inclusion and in 2010, I did training for almost 400 Medtronic employees in India http://bit.ly/W33tZ2, and this part of Lee’s talk was very interesting to me.  Here is a link to my interviews http://bit.ly/ZpNwhN ).  Lee said that her company employs 2200 people, at 4 different sites, with a lot of functional diversity. Working across cultures is frequently challenging, because there is often distrust, preconceived notions, and logistics challenges, including ill timed phone calls, that exacerbate problems.  Instead of delving immediately into work, it is often more productive to set aside time for getting to know people and develop personal relationships, with team members at remote locations.  When working through preconceived notions and unmet expectations, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective and give credit for positive intent, and to seek to understand before being understood, said Lee.  Genentech/Roche has a commitment to increasing the number of women in the workforce and make opportunities for advancement, available to women.  However, it is not about quotas, said Lee.  A diverse workforce enhances and enriches the entire team and increases the diversity of thought, which in the end always leads to better problem solving, greater creativity and higher productivity, she said.

Lee also touched upon importance of work-life balance and flexibility in an individual and within an organization.  In the end, it is always about relationships.  Relationships with colleagues, allies, coaches, and sponsors are all different and need to be maintained differently.  For instance, coaches may talk to you but mentors talk with you and sponsors may talk about you, sometimes even when you are not present.  Summarizing and sharing the learnings from her own leadership journey, she said “be authentic, have greater self-awareness, and play to your strengths”.  Additionally, “you need to pursue your passion, do what you love, be resilient and face challenges head on”.  And finally, “remember that relationships matter and define your own path to fulfillment”, said Lee.

A sign at Genentech headquarters in South San ...

A sign at Genentech headquarters in South San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EPPIC will host its Annual Conference on February 1, 2014 at the Westin in South San Francisco.  Mark your calendars for a great conference with excellent keynotes and panels on a variety of topics and watch out for preview blogs on the event.  Register early at www.eppicglobal.org, before the event gets sold out.

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