Magazine Article | April 29, 2014

Ask The Board: What Is The Best Leadership Advice You Ever Received?

Source: Life Science Leader

(A) “Full speed ahead, and damn the torpedoes!” is a popular phrase characteristic of Dr. Phil Russell’s leadership style, who is now a retired Army three-star general. Phil was a mentor during my nearly two-decade tenure at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He wasn’t afraid to make hard decisions, especially when timing was critical, and not all the data was available to assess every option. His point was that someone needs to lead, and there is never enough data to make a truly informed decision, especially by a committee. So you make the best decision based on available data, move ahead, and take responsibility for the consequences. Taking personal responsibility for the decisions we collectively make is what being the CEO is all about.

Dr. Nacy is CEO of Sequella, Inc., a private company that develops new anti-infective drugs. She was formerly CSO at Anergen and EVP/CSO at EntreMed. Prior to her business experience, she directed research in tropical infectious diseases at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, D.C.

(A) Early in my career I was asked to lead a multidisciplinary task force to address broad strategic challenges that negatively impact productivity during drug development. This required me to move out of my comfort zone into the proverbial “third room” of life experiences. While building my team, my boss and mentor said, “Remember, you don’t have all the answers, and neither do I.” That advice had a profound impact on how I chose my team — a team with diverse experiences and expertise that would come together to achieve things no single perspective could possibly achieve. It helped me recall an experiment that illustrated the power of diversity in solving complex problems. In that study, a group of exceptionally bright individuals with similar life experiences lost out to a group with more modest intellectual fi repower but that had very diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Dr. Orloff is the head of global clinical development for Merck Serono. Previously, he served as chief medical offi cer and senior VP of global clinical development at Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

(A) About 30 years ago a friend of mine, Mike Duffy, presented me with a small, framed copy of an inspirational poem called “The Man in the Glass.” It sat on my desk for years collecting dust and the occasional glance. Eventually, I memorized it and have repeated it to myself many times over the years. Mike started out in his father’s small, Iowa-based business right out of school and worked his way through the company to the role of President/CEO. The company is now the multimillion dollar Per Mar Security Services and is still headquartered in Davenport, IA. His golden rule philosophy, underscored by his Midwest sensibilities (a man so humble he doesn’t even put his title on his business card), has elevated him to the highest levels of success and respect within his company, personal life, and community.

Mr. O’Donnell is senior partner at Exelsius Cold Chain Management Consultancy U.S., an international provider of consultative, research, and training services to manufacturers, airlines, forwarders, and other stakeholders in the life science logistics sector.