Drugmaker looks for leaders at every level as sector evolves

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 2006, 12:00am

Pharmaceuticals is a complex business. It reaches beyond researching and bringing new drugs to market into health care, hospitals and the community.

As general manager of Wyeth (HK), Penny Wan has faced many challenges since returning in 2003 to Hong Kong, where she began her career at the firm 16 years ago before postings abroad.

Issues such as new regulations had changed the whole scene, Ms Wan said. Add to that the challenges of a changing hospital environment, an ageing population and a corresponding increase in demand for health care.

'It's a problem that the government and companies like us are working together on, so we are a stakeholder in the issues and the change we are getting to grips with,' she said.

For Wyeth, this means business is more complex than ever and it is no longer possible to rely on the leadership of one person. 'We need to find leadership in everyone,' Ms Wan said.

The company sets great store by its core values, which embrace leadership, integrity, respect for people and collaboration.

'Everyone is a leader at Wyeth Hong Kong. It is embedded in our values. Most importantly, however, is that employees are encouraged to take charge of their destiny by first visualising and defining success, and then championing the process to get there.'

Once this process is in train, it becomes self-perpetuating. 'The power is enormous, because it comes from within each individual's motivation to realise success,' she said.

When in doubt, staff refer to the firm's values, which are even used as guidelines when resolving disagreements. 'Instead of checking with the boss, staff should already know what's in, what's out, what's possible and what's not,' she said.

She said Wyeth's motto - Leaders need to lead the way, show the way and go the way - showed it valued leading by example and pride in one's work.

As leaders, no staff members were expected to show the way without going the way, she added. 'They must walk the talk.'

Ms Wan was particularly pleased with Wyeth's scores in the report's change-management section, which she attributed it to high levels of transparency. 'When change is not going the way it should, it's because people fail to understand and come along.'

Regular meetings were addressed by a group who constantly updated other staff on new developments, she said.

'I feel being transparent and open with change takes away the fear element and allows employees to be part of it - that's why our scores were so positive.'