I had the unique opportunity to attend a lecture by the CEO of Life Technologies, Greg Lucier, just recently here in San Diego. The lecture was organized by Leo Lee, the creator of a new group on Linkedin.com called Leadership Builder and the title of the presentation was “Developing Executive Leadership: What it Takes to Take the Lead”.
It isn’t often that one has the chance to receive career advice from the CEO of a billion dollar company in a small conference room setting such as this, so I took the opportunity to hear him speak. Not only was it a great chance to learn some of his wisdom directly, but I also wanted to share it with you too here on Bitesize Bio.
Greg’s Background and Philosophies
Greg started off by telling the ~150 person audience about his educational background. After getting a B.S. at Penn State, he attended Harvard where he received an MBA. Prior to taking the lead at Invitrogen, he was the General Manager at GE, working for Jack Welch, and learning the management style that worked so well at GE. When he was interviewed by the Board of Directors for the position of CEO at Invitrogen in 2003, he told them ”hire me not for what I know, but for how fast I can learn.”
He had not worked in the biotech industry prior to this time, and except for the experience he gained in his evolving role at GE where he was managing their medical systems, life sciences would be completely new to him. However, there was never a doubt in his mind in his ability to lead a completely different enterprise to greatness. Indeed, when talking about key qualities in leaders, Greg stated, “The core of a great leader is self confidence.”
Leadership and Training
The bulk of the seminar was spent discussing how Life Technologies views leadership, and how they promote and train from within to move people with drive and motivation on to higher positions in the company.
When talking about picking the right players for his team, he was clear about what he looks for in a candidate for a leadership position at Life Technologies. He said, “A person who has led an imperfect life.” A person who is reflective and can say “when they went left, when they should have gone right”, and talk about what they learned from their mistakes. Greg continued, “Look, you are going to [make mistakes] otherwise you’re not moving fast. You have to minimize it and the size of it.” And of course, learn from it. He stressed that people with battle scars make great leaders.
Creating a Great Workplace
Towards the end of the talk, Greg focused on the changes made at Life Technologies to make it a better place for employees, a place that people want to work. He spoke about how the GE method did not work at Life Tech and so, instead of asking people to change, he changed. Now, instead of ranking people from best to worst, they focus on people’s careers and individual growth and time balance. He said they want employees to try different positions within the company, to learn new skills, and to further their education on the job instead of leaving to find greener pastures elsewhere.
As a former employee of Invitrogen (which merged with Applied Biosystems in 2009 to form Life Technologies), I can say it was nice to hear about the positive changes taking place at Life Technologies and how they are managing their rapid growth as a company to keep pace with the developments in science.
Greg’s perspectives on leadership were a great reminder that whatever it is in life that you lead, it is ok to try things and make mistakes, that change accelerates learning, and that self confidence can get you everywhere.