Throughout my career, I’ve carefully observed leaders and noted their actions, skills, and styles. As a result, my leadership approach has evolved over time; however the essence of my style remains grounded in four principles I believe are foundational to success:
Create a consistent, compelling vision.
Find ways to help people connect to that vision.
Build a culture that’s supportive, delivers results, and is culturally adapted to the situation.
Find ways to integrate your professional and personal life.
At their core, these principles are lessons I learned from my role model, my father. From a young age, I watched him work very hard while always focusing on people at every level, especially those who were customer-facing. As a member of his family, I felt privileged to learn from him and grow from his terrific stories. My passion for causes, cultures, and people comes from him.
Today, as the head of our MS Business Unit, I follow these same guidelines to deliver strong results and sustained success. I encourage my team to look for the best ways to deliver an innovative therapy to people suffering from the debilitating effects of MS—and to focus directly on the needs of the MS community. I’ve also worked to create a culture where associates can develop and grow by setting career goals and participating in mentoring relationships. I’ve been lucky to have many role models and mentors and I’m committed to paying that forward.
Earlier in my career, I found myself in a culturally tricky situation—and even then, my leadership principles proved relevant. Novartis appointed me general manager in Sweden, and I embraced this opportunity. Although I was somewhat familiar with Swedish culture—I am
married to a Swedish national—I was not accustomed to doing business there. When I first arrived, I felt like an outsider. I learned quickly that in Sweden, leaders gain respect by including others first and listening before
speaking. I had to adapt my style—hold back, invite input, actively listen, ask questions, probe for information, drive for consensus, and wait before proposing a solution. That was a challenging lesson in cultural competence for me—a gregarious, Latin, female leader from the United States. However, it was completely consistent with my principle-based leadership style, and underscored how inclusion can motivate and mobilize individuals to work together toward success.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
I have two daughters and a largely female leadership team in the MS Business Unit. As women, we have to balance a lot in life.
Success is about aligning your strengths with what makes you feel fulfilled. I also recommend focusing on classic leadership areas and asking ourselves tough questions such as, Are we adding value to the business? Are we speaking up when we have creative ideas? Are we receiving credit for our contributions?
It’s also essential for women to develop a leadership and communication style that is authentic and effective while allowing us to be powerful and heard.