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Bonus Focus - The Characteristics of Great Leaders


By Dawn Brehm

“Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders."

-- Tom Peters

Trust is a balancing act of  support and challenge while putting others first. SPBT members recently shared their thoughts about the best leaders they have worked for and with.

Jim Trunick, who consults for Allergan, noted the best leaders create a true sense of caring. Leadership is measured in trust and is they focused.

Dennis Merlo, vice president, sales operations and training for Purdue Pharma, also highlighted the importance of trust in a leader.  Trust and looking to spotlight and develop others combined with a sense of humor and a collaborative way of working are the characteristics that most impress Merlo.  He also noted that the best leaders he experienced are open to new ideas and engage the team to create the best business solutions.

Joni Fausett, director, management & leadership development, commercial training & development at Genentech, shared that the best leaders take a genuine interest in people, always looking to discover the talents within each person.

“They tell you the truth, they provide the tools to improve and most importantly they are with you along the road,” she said.

Fausett also noted that great leaders encourage you stretch and push you to achieve.

Creating an environment for peak performance is what Eric Fink, head of learning & development and internal communications at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, highlighted as a unique attribute of a great leader.

“One of the best leaders I worked for created and environment with the perfect balance of support and challenge,” he said. “On the support side, you knew they were there to help you succeed however they continuously challenge you to improve and leverage your strengths.”

Tom Kukla, senior director, field management development of Purdue Pharma, shared a theme of developing people in a self-sacrificing way.

“The best leaders are constantly developing their people and are not afraid to develop them for other opportunities, even if it means losing talent in your department,” he said.

Kukla also noted the importance of listening intently and treating people with respect as hallmarks of great leaders.

Adam Heide, senior manager, leadership development, Daiichi Sankyo, shared that great leaders are present.
“They showed a genuine interest in my success and were present during all of our interactions,” he said.
Heide also remarked that great leaders empower others.
“They shared feedback, both positive and constructive, in a way that motivated me to increase the level of my performance,” he added.
One thing everyone agreed on is that great leaders create strong followers.
“I would go through walls for the best leaders I had the privilege of working with,” Trunick said. 

Dawn Brehm is SPBT’s chief operating officer. Email Dawn at

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