Leaders must make their organizations and the world better

SUMMARY: Leaders have a duty to make their companies stronger and help make the world a better place.  Leadership is crucial in providing a unified vision. Pharma CEO’s shouldn’t believe that their products, alone, will help make the world a stronger place. People want and need more.

I believe there is a significant leadership vacuum in healthcare. Most CEOs focus on the stock price, but very few are focusing on what it’s like to be a patient in a healthcare environment in which patients are last in line.

I know you’ve probably heard the word “disruption” a lot, but rather than discard it as an overused trend, CEOs should be looking at how they can disrupt their companies to respond better to the needs of patients who now have several treatment choices.

Today most pharma companies are operating the same way they did five and even ten years ago. The attitude that “patients need our products” is myopic and dated. As people pay more for healthcare insurance they want and expect more. The relationship between patients and customers shouldn’t be blurred.

It should start at the very top to embrace customer engagement and be embedded in every employee KRAs with required examples. The excuse that “the FDA won’t let us do that” is bullshit. The real truth is that to get closer to customers and show them you care; you need to spend money. I’ve seen too many proposals die in meetings because pharma needs an ROI for everything, and measuring customer engagement is not easy.

Some companies feel that calling patients to help them navigate insurance is engagement. It’s not. Answering patient’s questions about your product and guiding them to online health resources is.

A huge challenge for some CEOs is navigating the complex management environment of companies that merge into one, patient centric, culture. It’s hard but somehow the focus has to be on the patient not on management performance reviews.

Leaders must inspire the same view that they have

There is so much research on what patients want from healthcare yet we just aren’t delivering because healthcare is too profitable and nobody wants to spend money without having clear path to ROI. I believe that a CEO who is a visionary can change that.

When I was at Lilly, the CEO used to invite us to lunch every month. There were no more than 10-12 people who attended. I remember him listening intently to us and taking notes, but what I remember the most was his decision to take a $1.00 salary when we lost patent on our number one drug. He said that the company could fight it in an all-hands employee meeting, but it wasn’t the right thing to do. That is courage.

The business environment for healthcare is overripe for disruption that’s going to upend American healthcare. Pharma can either be a leader or wait for it to slap them on the head.