What Makes an Effective CEO?

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The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) plays an essential role in the success of any company.  Nowhere is this more visible than in biotech and healthcare. Great science and technology are not enough. The effectiveness of the CEO can make the difference between success and failure.  Whether in a commercial enterprise or serving the community, bringing services, devices, materials, drugs, and innovation to market depends on effective leadership.

At BioFest Invest 2021, we heard from 3 remarkable San Antonio CEO’s who lead in our industry every day: Gabi Niederauer, CEO of Bluegrass Vascular, Marty Landon CEO of BioBridge Global and George Peoples CEO of Cancer Insight. All 3 have different backgrounds and experiences. Their companies differ in mission, size, type of company, as well as the stage of their companies. Each is a successful leader in the complex and changing worlds of healthcare and bioscience. Marty Landon has 30 years of experience in the health care industry. Landon has held senior positions in public and private companies and is recognized for building and leading high-performance teams and value-creating initiatives. In 2016, Marty joined BioBridge Global as chief executive officer. COL (ret) George E. Peoples, MD, FACS recently retired from 30 years of active duty as a surgeon and research scientist in the military. He is the Founder and CEO of Cancer Insight as well as the Cancer Vaccine Development Program (CVDP).  Gabi Niederauer, CEO and President of Bluegrass Vascular has more than 25 years of experience in the development and commercialization of medical technologies.

Key Takeaways:

Role of the CEO: The role of the CEO is to set the vision, embody the mission, build a great team and inspire that team. Integrity, trust, and passion are key ingredients to leading an organization. The CEO sets direction of the company and must be willing to change pivot when needed. Working with shareholders, the board, employees, and contractors means focus of the CEO is both external and internal to the company.

Effectiveness of the CEO: Each CEO has their own style and effectiveness is not a one size fits all. The requirement of effective communication was shared by all the CEOs. The road of a company is not always smooth, and the CEO must have the strength to withstand the difficult times. The CEO needs to be prepared to change with the stages of the company and to work effectively with all stakeholders.

Advice from the CEOs:  The CEOs advised being open minded and to expect the unexpected. Sometimes investors and your board have different opinions, and while it is important to listen to your investors and your board, you must make decisions and move forward. The CEOs discussed the need to be self-aware, understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. Recruiting the right team to complement your strengths is an effective strategy to building a successful organization.

CEO Book Recommendations:

Atul Gawande: Checklist Manifesto, Complication, Better, Being Mortal (recommended by George Peoples)

Doris Kearns Goodwin: Team of Rivals (recommended by Marty Landon)

Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It (recommended by Gabi Niederauer)

 

This panel session at BioFest 2021 was moderated by Randi Brosterman Hutchens, President & CEO of Actionable Transitions, LLC, an executive coaching firm.

 

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