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Jane Griffiths, EMEA Company Group Chairman of Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson

12 May 2015

The article at a glance

Collaborative but firm: Jane Griffiths leads from the front, combining “no compromise” with encouraging diversity of thought. It is important to me …

Collaborative but firm: Jane Griffiths leads from the front, combining “no compromise” with encouraging diversity of thought.


It is important to me that my work has a higher purpose and that people enjoy what they do. I’m fortunate that the pharmaceutical industry has a truly noble purpose – improving people’s lives. If you don’t enjoy what you do, it’s a challenge to be good at it. It may be difficult, but you have to tell people early in their career if they are not suited to the job. When I was newly promoted to national sales manager I had to tell a colleague who was older than me that he was unlikely to progress further in the company. It was a difficult conversation for both of us. He left a while later, started a new business and now takes pleasure in emailing me to tell me how many racehorses he owns! Sometimes it takes courage on both sides to address difficult topics but clarity, honesty and sincerity will win the day.

There are lots of different kinds of leaders, and as I age I appreciate that more. You can build a team but there always has to be a leader and it’s my job to develop leaders for the future. I was fortunate to have a very good sponsor who guided me throughout my career, but I didn’t realise it at the time: it only really dawned on me when he mentioned me and another female colleague, whose careers had progressed well, at his retirement ‘do’ as the thing he was most proud of. Now I want to be able to do that for others.

When you are responsible for a business, you need to be close to its people. I try to operate in a very collaborative, open and honest way, but equally as the leader, if a decision needs to be made I say what I think. My biggest focus is on people and I am told I generally have a good take on those I work alongside. I have a huge amount of energy that I use to bring people along with me. My approach to my job is very full-on.

I am wary of people who have moved around too much. When I first started out as a sales rep here at J&J the dean of my college said to me: “Jane, couldn’t you have done any better than that?” Today it would be highly unlikely for someone to stay in one part of the organisation and reach a senior position as I have; more career experiences would be required. But moving around too much can be counter-productive: you can lose the personal equity you have built up in an organisation. I also believe you have to give something back to the company, build a contribution, before you can move on.

The ideal leadership profile involves inspiring, shaping and delivering measurable results. I recognise that not everyone admires the pharmaceutical industry, but ultimately we do amazing work developing great medicines. It’s a competitive industry, but we are working hard to be more collaborative across the spectrum. A lot of the skills that will commonly be in demand in the future to deliver this much needed collaboration are more evident in women, which is one of the reasons we are committed as a company to achieving gender diversity – not just for the sake of it, but because it is truly the best way forward. Diverse teams are known to have better outputs.

It is easier for me, as a woman, to address the gender gap. I prefer to be seen as just another human being rather than a woman, but I recognise that I play a female leadership role. I can identify with the challenges that women face in the workplace, although personally I haven’t suffered too much from the boys’ club attitude. I use humour to diffuse the situation. If the guys start talking about football, I talk about my sheep!

My mother told me never to compromise. She had a degree in chemistry and became an industrial chemist at ICI, but when she got married she ditched her career and followed my father. That was what women did then, but years later she told me she had always regretted having to give up her career, even though she later became a teacher. So now I tell women working with me: “Establish clear boundaries for both your home and your work life, so that you do not jeopardise one for the other. If necessary, get your childcare sorted, invest in a nanny” – which is what I did.

Women beat themselves up too much. I was on a transatlantic flight and got weepy watching a movie so I wrote to my kids apologising for working so hard and being away so much. I foolishly pressed the send button when I landed. The next day I got a long mail from my daughter praising me for being such a role model; my son just said: “Don’t worry Ma, we’ve had some great experiences and seen some amazing places as a result!” That just about sums it up for me; kids are very resilient and it’s possible to build a career and raise a great family. But don’t beat yourself up by trying to be too perfect, you are setting yourself an unachievable goal. One day you’ll need to be the best leader/employee/mum/partner but probably not all on the same day!