Forbes asks “where are the pharma leaders?”

imagesKEY SUMMARY: Fobres, in a recent editorial, said “Pharma Needs A Leader In 2016” and I couldn’t agree more, but let’s be honest here, most pharma CEO’s are NOT leaders but rather high paid executives who bow to investor needs and demands.

Those of you who are long-time readers know that I have been calling on pharma CEOs to step up to the plate for a long time yet today very few biopharma CEO’s are real leaders.  John Lechleiter, the CEO of Lilly, vowed to take a salary of $1.00 when Lilly was going through hard times and met with the rank and file to outline his thoughts and plans for the future.  Even though Wall Street disapproved Mr Lechleiter vowed to keep the investment in R&D at a high level as he believed that it is possible to discover new drugs that could benefit patients.  Now compare that to the CEO of Biogen who went on vacation in Southern France after announcing that 600 people would lose their jobs.  Who would you rather follow?


The reality today is that pharma CEO’s earn too much money and are too far removed from ordinary employees and patients to be “concerned” about leadership.  CEO’s, here in the US, often get rewarded for failure and it’s more about their ego’s than it is about helping patients and improving the workplace so innovation can thrive.


What would I like to see in a pharma leader?

  1. No pharma CEO should take a salary above $5M.  It’s not about the title and perks, it’s about actually leading people to help others who need help.
  2. CEO’s should mandate that no patient will be left behind because they can’t afford a product they market.  If someone makes $100K per year, for example, they may not be able to afford a treatment for MS that costs $17K every other month if their insurer won’t cover it.
  3. Win over the rank and file and recognize pirates and innovators. When I received my President’s and Marketing Excel award at Lilly I received them from top executives and also received an email thanking me for my work.  That was like a shot of corporate B12.
  4. Hold Wall Street at bay.  Make them understand that instant gratification is rare within drug development.  Remember these are the same analysts that help cause the huge financial meltdown.
  5. Be human. Stop with the corporate speak. Talk to us like people with a PR talking points scorecard.

There are too many pharma CEO’s who only care about the balance sheet and their own compensation and bonus.  Until we get real leaders pharma is going to find it hard to hire the people needed to turn this ship around.


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