The Secret of Their Success: Going from Candidate to President/CEO


When you’re in business, you try to remain humble. After all, there are no “givens” -- sometimes, even the greatest efforts and promises fall short upon execution.

I thought about this the other day, when I was checking in with some of the candidates we’d placed over the past few years and noticed a trend: advancement. Whether in their own company or elsewhere, these candidates were continuing to reach for more and, in turn, achieving the ranks of President and/or CEO at an impressive rate.

This got me thinking about other executive candidates The Hennessy Group had placed through the years, and how many of them were leading big teams, important teams and the kind of teams that are changing the face of an industry.

Truthfully, I lost count somewhere along the way. But, thanks to technology, I was able to put together a list of our life sciences executive placements who had ultimately advanced to President, CEO or both. Here’s what that looks like:

It’s easy to say that you do something. In my industry, for example, almost everyone says they have a 90%+ success rate on search (whether they can back it up with stats is another story).

It’s harder to stop to do the math. But sometimes when you do, you find that you’re actually doing far more than you say. That’s something to celebrate.

If I were to congratulate each of the leaders on our list, my guess is that their responses would likely be the same: “I was just doing my job.” That humility is a testament to their superior leadership. For those of us who’ve watched the workforce evolve over the decades, we’ve seen how humility today has the power to drive teams to succeed, something that didn’t stand a chance in the workplace a few decades ago.

A study by Catalyst (and related article by Catalyst’s Jeanine Prine and Elizabeth Salib in Harvard Business Review), found that “when employees observed altruistic or selfless behavior in their managers … they were more likely to report feeling included in their work teams.” They also reported “being more innovative,” and “engaging in team citizenship.” A little humility adds up to the type of team life sciences companies need to reach the next level.

It’s a great lesson, too. So many of the outstanding minds in this industry don’t own up to their accomplishments. It’s just work, right? We’re just doing what we love. But the numbers show that most of them are doing far more. They’re building teams that rise to the challenge. They’re motivating the contributors who give 110% because they have a goal to make life better for someone. They’re influencing the innovators to jump the next hurdle, even when it seems insurmountable. They’re making sure that promises aren’t empty and that expectations are exceeded. And they’re doing all of this quietly because it’s part of who they are as people -- the kind who have the humility it takes to lead the way.

My hat goes off to each of them.

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