The importance of consistency in leadership

At Acrux's Melbourne office, the company's share price hangs in the lobby. It is updated every day, with a reminder that tomorrow's price is up to staff to determine.

The pharmaceutical company's chief executive, Dr Richard Treagus, had some words of wisdom to share with fellow CEOs at this week's NZBIO conference.

CEOs are "in the business of managing expectations", he says, and underpromising/overdelivering never goes amiss.

Since it falls to the CEO to manage communication with both internal and external stakeholders – the human link between inside and outside the organisation, if you like – consistency across the board is key.

For example, some of Acrux's employees are also shareholders.

"Staff will be the first to judge whether I am consistent," he says. "The message has to be consistent, accurate, clear." If not, it won't be long before disillusioned employees and investors make their voices heard.

"Creating that alignment is really critical – if there's a disconnect between these factors it's just a matter of time before things derail."

It may not always be easy, but transparency pays off, Treagus says.

"I've had to say to some of my staff 'we're preserving cash' prior to being profitable, and 'there is no bonus this year'. It certainly won me no friends internally but sent the message that this has to be a performance-based organisation.We came out of an academic institution … but this is a publicly-traded company and we’re here to generate shareholder value."

It's also important to balance time across both facets. A recent survey of biotech executives found most CEOs wanted to spend more time on strategy and business development.

“Monitor details but don’t manage them,” says Treagus. While you need to have a sense of what’s going on in the business, smart people want to get on with their jobs and can be trusted to do so (and those are the kind you have on staff, do you not?)

"We've all seen leaders become too internally focused, too absorbed in the details. Likewise, CEOs too absorbed with the outside dealings and spending too much time with press, with investors or business partners. The risk there is you can lose sight of details in the business and be accused of losing touch with internal workings."

And you'll need a deep understanding of external stakeholders – customers, media, investors, government, business partners, industry groups, regulators, service providers, research analysts, etc – because ultimately, without an "outside", there is no "inside" to any organisation.

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