Recruiting Life Sciences Executives: Three CEO Archetypes

By Morten Nielsen

No two life sciences companies follow the same path of growth and development, but they often do go through similar phases as they transition over years from inception to commercialization. The same CEO is rarely equipped to run a drug, device, or diagnostic company from beginning to end, as leadership needs evolve at the same rate as the growing enterprise.

Therefore, different CEOs are often needed to optimize the different phases of growth. There can be many phases but, in a recent article on MDDIOnline, I simplify them and summarize three common CEO archetypes:

The Entrepreneur CEO: This CEO, usually a founder or cofounder of the company, contains a myriad of skills necessary to execute the original vision. An innovator and motivator, this leader must also possess strong communication skills to convey the wisdom of new products to others.

The Scale-up CEO: The next leader in the evolution of the company should be one with a proven history of taking products to new levels. Experience is key here, as this leader will be able to envision the manufacturing and marketing needs for the next phase of the company, and execute those plans through careful planning and delegation.

The Commercial (or M&A) CEO: Depending on the organization’s plan to either remain independent or align with potential strategic buyers, a Commercial CEO or M&A CEO is the logical next step. Both leaders should have strategic marketing experience, likely on a global scale. Respected in their field, these CEOs are good communicators, build effective teams, and can smartly analyze the marketplace.

It is not unheard of for a single leader to transition from one type of CEO role to another. However, it is best for a life sciences company to analyze its present and future needs . . . and pragmatically prepare for changes in leadership if necessary.

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