Randall L Tobias is the former president, chairman and CEO of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.
Under his leadership in the 1990s Eli Lilly experienced a dramatic turnaround and enjoyed one of the most successful periods in its history. Tobias’ brand of highly ethical leadership won him plaudits during his career. He has now captured the lessons he learned in a book, Put the Moose On the Table, which argues that tough issues in business and in life need to be openly and honestly faced at all times. Interview by Stuart Crainer.
Why should anyone read another book by a CEO?
Sure, too many books by CEOs are driven by their own ego and not differentiated from others on the executive bookshelves. What makes it different is that this is a book about business and life. The leadership lessons I learned in my life are applicable to someone in their business career and in the rest of their lives.
Having said that, we are becoming better at producing leadership. There is more emphasis on understanding what works and doesn’t work. We need to better understand people who have been successful leaders and then to use this understanding as a predictor.
Aren’t many of the lessons offered on leadership simplistic?
On one hand things seem simplistic but a lot of people are promoted because of what they’ve done for and by themselves and that can be disastrous. The ability to produce results through other people is what’s required.
The measure of success is to know about all the constituents of a business – customers, suppliers, community. There has to be equilibrium so the leader is a juggler with a number of balls in the air at any one time. All have to be kept going. If one falls they all fall. If you focus on shareholders and not on customers, customers won’t be looked after. All the elements need to be in play.
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