Beyond The Printed Page | December 22, 2021

A Lesson In Leadership From Lara Sullivan

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
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Lara Sullivan
Lara Sullivan, M.D., CEO, Pyxis Oncology

Because of the density restrictions driven by the pandemic, when Pyxis moved into a new lab space, it wasn’t possible to have leadership oversight on-site. As such, the scientists had to figure everything out for themselves, which was the kind of empowerment and responsibility that seemed to pervade all activities at the company. “During the lockdowns, I was worried that people in the lab would be envious of the people working at home, and those at home envious of those able to get social interactions that weren’t on Zoom,” shares Lara Sullivan, CEO of Pyxis Oncology, who is featured in an upcoming issue of Life Science Leader. “While we tried to nurture a culture where employees knew they were valued [i.e., implemented strict safety protocols for those working in the office], we didn’t get to see any of the social interaction dynamic.” During a February 2021 all-hands Zoom meeting, one of the scientists who had been working in the Boston office shared, “I solved the puzzle.” None of the Pyxis leadership team knew what they were talking about, so the person elaborated. Turns out that over Christmas 2020, one of the scientists left a Christmas puzzle for everyone coming in and out of the lab to ponder. “It was an inspirational, heartfelt poem written about Pyxis, but the phrases were all jumbled,” Sullivan elaborates. The scientists took a picture so the rest of the leadership team could see what it was all about. “It talked about leading with courage, acting with your heart, and the best being yet to come. When I saw that, and the fact that it had manifested positively on its own, I knew the right culture was being embedded, despite the adversity provided by the pandemic.” That being said, Sullivan notes the company has been proactively building its culture. For example, early in Q4 2021 as travel restrictions eased, the Pyxis leadership team met in Chicago to work with some leadership consultants to help pinpoint and articulate the mission and vision the company wants for its next wave of growth.

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