Let the speculation begin

Let the speculation begin

Well it didn’t take long for the rumors to begin about who will succeed Viehbacher at that the soap opera once known as Sanofi (NYSE:SNY). Yes not even a day has passed since our wine drinking friends in France canned Viehbacher and already the list of possible replacements are being passed around. Also as anticipated the debate has begun whether the Board did the right thing, a moot point as far as we’re concerned as the train has left the station and it’s not coming back.

As we suspected the debate has expanded to include whether Sanofi should look outside of the company for the new CEO or whether it’s better the position is filled from within. The current sentiment seems to be better to look outside the company rather than promote someone from within. Yet the true funny part here is the names of possible replacements from outside the company aren’t exactly knocking the cover off the ball at their current positions. To put it mildly the internal ranks at Sanofi are worried the Board will bring in a lightweight who will not command the respect of the rank and file.

Yet Sanofi isn’t the only diabetes company, and for the moment we can still call them a diabetes company, that’s making major management changes. As everyone knows Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) recently changed the head of their diabetes unit bringing a former GE executive to take over. Well it seems the new guy isn’t wasting any time and is transforming the team to include …wait for it … more people who used to work at … wait for it …  GE. Now this really isn’t all that shocking and honestly isn’t all that unusual. The rub comes in as whether wholesale changes in management risks jettisoning some solid individuals.

This is the delicate balancing act any new CEO or President of an operating unit must deal with, the ability to identify talent. Yes it’s easier to work with people they have worked with in the past, people who they have an established relationship with, and a level of trust. However they also don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. As poorly as Sanofi mismanaged their diabetes unit there are members of this team, a few, who were exceptionally talented. The same can said at Medtronic.

Frankly this is what leadership is all about, separating the truly talented from those who have no business being in management positions. We mention this as many of the people spreading rumors about who will succeed Viehbacher seem to believe that leadership is an over-used term and leadership cannot be defined. To these people we remind them of what the Supreme Court said about pornography; “we may not be able to clearly define it but we know it when we see it.” The same can be said about leadership; it may not be clearly definable but leaders have a way of defining themselves.

Since we’ve been prone to football analogies recently we think most would agree that Tom Brady is a leader and Jay Cutler isn’t. It’s not that Brady is “more talented” than Cutler, although he clearly is, Brady is a leader, a proven winner. Many seem to forget that Brady was not a high draft pick nor was much expected of him when he became the back up in New England. Yet thrust into the starting position due to an injury to the starter Brady’s leadership skills were obvious and his track record will earn him a place in the Hall of Fame. Brady has the uncanny ability to turn previously unknown receivers into superstars. Does anyone seriously believe that Wes Welker or Ron Gronkowski would be household names had Tom Brady not been the person throwing them the football?

To put it in diabetes terms think of what Dexcom (NASDAQ:DXCM) would have been like had Terry Gregg not taken over. Like Brady Mr. Gregg when he first began in diabetes was not considered a high draft pick. Yet given the opportunity to lead he did just that and has racked up the most inviable track record in diabetes.  Dexcom stakeholders owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Gregg who will be retiring at the end of year. Not only did he turn Dexcom into a winner he is not leaving the organization in disarray just the opposite as the team he put in place are also All Stars. This is what leadership is all about.

So as the Sanofi Board begins their search they would be wise to remember being a leader is more important than being “French” enough.