Michel de Rosen Featured

8:00pm EDT August 29, 2006
 Michel de Rosen realizes he is a demanding boss, but he also recognizes the importance of not being arrogant. As chairman, president and CEO of ViroPharma Inc., de Rosen’s ability to maintain that balance has helped him lead the pharmaceutical company to $132 million in revenue last year.

Smart Business spoke to de Rosen about the qualities of being a good leader and the importance being able to handle change.

Be energetic, ambitious and humble.
There is not only one way to be a leader. A leadership style has to be, to a large extent, natural. You can work on it, but it has to be natural.

You have to be yourself. You have to adjust to the needs of the company. You have to adjust to the evolution of the company and the evolution of the needs of the company.

It is a way for the company to benefit from the energy and talent of all the people in the company, as opposed to a management style that is more autocratic, more arrogant, where a lot depends on one person. If that one person makes mistakes, then the whole company suffers.

In 2006, you do not lead or manage people the way you could do it 50 or 100 years ago. People want to know why they’re working in this company. They want to feel the company they are serving and helping is a good company (that) can make a difference, and they, individually in that company, can make a difference, also.

The best organizations are the ones that have a set of values and not only put them on the wall but believe in them, are inspired by them and respect them.

Be prepared to change.
It takes hard work. It’s not something you can just improvise. You need to work on how to do it and what to do and why.

Many of us, and I have made this mistake myself, overestimate the difficulty of change. Do not underestimate the difficulty and do not overestimate the difficulty.

Make sure people — your team and the rest of the company — understand why you are changing, what are the goals of your change, so it doesn’t appear as just one more change for the sake of appearing as a great leader who is changing everything.

Also, measure execution of your action plan on change. Give yourselves milestones and dates (of) what you want to have done tomorrow, by next month, by next quarter.

Sometimes you may think change is there because all the right words are there. But, in fact, the whole organization is not really changing, either because they are not quite convinced (themselves), or convinced you really mean it.

And bite the bullet. If you make a change, don’t make half of a change.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.
When you communicate, you need to do two things that are very different.

You need to speak of the company or the organization, so you need to speak collectively. And you are speaking to people who want to know what the company is doing and why the company is changing.

But you also want to speak to people individually. People are listening and wonder, ‘What does that mean for me? I work in accounting ... ’ Obviously, when you are the CEO, you cannot give 200 speeches if you have 200 people.

If your speech becomes too individualistic, it doesn’t work. People expect the CEO to give a vision, a perspective.

On the other hand, if it’s too general, too generic, too vague, people are also going to wonder, ‘What does it mean for me?’ You need an action plan for the change, and you also need an action plan for the communication. When the CEO gives perspective to the company, then, depending on the size of the company, you need other speakers.

But you also need to prepare with the team on what people will be told when they come and say, ‘What does this mean for me?’ This communication also needs a lot of preparation.

Learn from your failures.
You must be able to know when you have failed. Sometimes something that looks like failure is not failure.

It’s just a bump in the road. It may be a big bump in the road, but you must work on it and overcome it.

Sometimes, on the other hand, failure is so strong you must recognize it and say this project or product is not working. This is where your common sense, your intuition, your judgment will make the difference. Is this a real failure or not a real failure?

First of all, you must use your judgment to make that decision. If it is a real failure, then recognize it yourself. Don’t hide the fact that it is a failure.

When you speak with your colleagues, also recognize it. Don’t pretend it is what it is not.

If you want people to move ahead, make sure they understand that this is what we tried to do and we have failed, so we are now moving ahead. You need to recognize what is going on.

Then you need, in different ways, to make sure the whole organization will focus on the future and not on the past. You don’t want people to be melancholy. Sometimes it takes changing people.

It certainly takes working on a new strategy, on the new opportunities, changing the organization, changing the goals and making sure everybody understands that.

Face challenges with positive energy.
You need positive energy. People look to the CEO and the leader and they ... expect him to be the incarnation of some faith in the future, whatever the problems are. Even if the problems are huge, every problem means some type of opportunity. You need to bring significant positive energy.

Second, it’s very important for the CEO to enjoy what he or she is doing. If this is a punishment for you, don’t do it. Do something else.

It has to be enjoyable. When there is a problem, you must enjoy finding solutions. Not, ‘Oh my God, this is so depressing, so difficult, so disappointing.’

You must really enjoy your job, if you want to do that sort of job.

HOW TO REACH: ViroPharma Inc., www.viropharma.com