I knew change would be my only constant when I took the reins of leadership at Merck one year ago. As a COVID-generation CEO, I accepted the responsibility to guide a team of 60,000 colleagues through the pandemic while preparing us for the future beyond it.
I also knew to expect the unexpected. The devastating war in Ukraine was not something I could have anticipated in my lifetime, let alone in the last 12 months. During both the pandemic and Ukraine, my goal has remained the same – to keep our people safe while protecting our supply chains for customers and patients.
Being the CEO of a diverse global company during this challenging time – while also mobilizing the organization for growth – has been a rewarding test of leadership. It´s helped make me always ready to challenge my own beliefs and listen and learn from everyone I meet. I am incredibly proud of my team for what we´ve accomplished so far as one Merck.
As I reflect upon this past year, I wanted to share three learnings on leadership.
1: Change is a constant. Embrace the opportunity. I´ve always believed change is a constant. It seems truer this year than ever before. I recognize that while some people see change as an opportunity, others see it as something to fear. For me, change is something we can all learn to embrace. I think that`s because I´ve always been ready to challenge the status quo – as a student, medical doctor, and executive. Leaders should consider complacency as their biggest enemy and the courage to change as their best friend.
2: Start with Culture. If you want to lead in an era of constant change, you need to start with culture. I´m grateful that Merck has a values-based culture built upon 354 years of achievement. Our ability to care deeply for our colleagues, customers, and patients, together with our purpose to advance human progress, has given me a powerful platform to build a higher-impact culture. To own the outcome. To simplify and focus on what matters most. To value speed and agility over perfection. To permanently raise the bar. And to constantly pursue transparency and inclusion. My fellow leaders and I must be fully accountable for living and breathing this culture every day.
3. Collaboration is key. I´ve been fortunate to inherit the leadership of a company in a strong business position and with a solid growth strategy. But as with most organizations, there is always tremendous value hiding just beneath the surface. This value can be unlocked by smart collaboration within (and even more importantly) across sectors and functions. By adopting four Enterprise Priorities and our Merck Spirit of Caring, Pioneering, and Outperforming, everyone is aligned under common goals. Together, we can make Merck the 21st century pioneer for science and technology. It´s been inspiring to witness the engagement of colleagues standing beside me as transformational leaders.
By challenging the status quo, embracing a high-impact culture, and having the courage, curiosity, and caring to unleash our full potential, we can all display the finest characteristics of leadership.
Thank you to everyone for their continued support.
Autor: Belén Garijo, Chair of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck