April 15, 2009
Headliner: Johnson & Johnson's Alex Gorsky
Alex Gorsky, worldwide chairman for Johnson & Johnson's surgical care group and this year's Healthcare Businesswomen's Association Honorable Mentor, says mentoring is a two-way street. He feels fortunate to have mentored a number of successful women, noting that the experience has taught him much about leadership.
“I don't think it's enough just to focus on development,” Gorsky says. “It's important to make a stand for women in the industry. We've got to have an inclusive environment and provide people what they need to succeed.”
Louise Mehrotra, VP of investor relations at J&J, describes him as an “extraordinary mentor” and an “exceptional leader.” “He puts you in stretch and development assignments, sometimes where you feel way out of your comfort zone, but he stays close and helps you become successful and build confidence,” Mehrotra explains. “He then puts you in front of senior management to present your outcome so you get exposure. He makes sure they understand you're responsible for the success.”
Donna David, VP and chief information officer, Worldwide Commercial Pharmaceuticals at J&J, says he's always been committed to workforce diversity. Gorsky, who graduated from West Point and served six years in the Army, says the military helped him understand the importance of diversity. “We've got to make sure leadership is representative of the constituencies we serve, and that's just not possible unless we're developing women in the industry,” he explains.
David and Mehrotra note Gorsky's ability to connect with people and to help all employees—from maintenance to marketing—understand their importance in the company's success. David says Gorsky continued to mentor her even after he left J&J for Novartis, responding “almost instantly” to emails and calls no matter where in the world he might be. “You have to be involved, and that means being approachable, making yourself available, and providing candid, specific feedback,” says Gorsky.
While the industry has made “some significant progress” in developing women leaders, he says most would admit that there's more to do.
Gorsky entered the industry as a sales rep at Janssen in 1988. Healthcare appealed to him because it afforded opportunity to “do good and do well.” He earned an MBA from The Wharton School in 1996. He says the military's “can-do” culture has helped him in business. “There's a general attitude in the military of trying to do everything possible to accomplish your mission,” Gorsky says. “We have the same kind of commitment to improving patients' lives. We face daunting challenges every day, and it's important to do our best to come up with solutions.”
Giving back is a priority for Gorsky. He's involved with a number of organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, The National Alliance on Aging, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the Doylestown Hospital Board, and Boy Scouts of America.
He's also very dedicated to fitness. He and his wife, who worked as a nurse until recently, run marathons, training together for an hour every morning. Last year, he competed in triathlons with his 19-year-old son, who's studying at The Wharton School, and with his niece.
“He believes in doing good for others personally and professionally – at work and in the community,” David says. “If you're lucky enough to work for him, interact with him, or have him as a mentor, you walk away with a gift.”
Worldwide chairman, surgical care group, executive committee member,
Johnson & Johnson
Company group chairman,
Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon
COO and CEO,
Novartis Pharmaceuticals North America