The four Cs that guide Gilead’s McCoy

By Megan Brodie 3 years ago | In Companies, People
  • 3 years ago
Gilead ANZ general manager Jaime McCoy.

6 October 2021

“It’s not your job as a leader to be popular, to please everyone and to make everyone happy,” says Gilead ANZ general manager Jaime McCoy. “A leader’s job is to make the best decision on behalf of the team that they are leading.”

Having the courage of her convictions is a mark of Jaime McCoy’s leadership, a woman not afraid to make a decision and stick to it. It has been two weeks since she announced mandatory Covid vaccinations for all Gilead’s Australia and New Zealand employees, including contractors and site visitors – the first pharma leader to take a stand on workplace vaccinations.

Amgen has since announced a more cautious vaccination requirement and yesterday (Tuesday), Medicines Australia voiced its support for McCoy’s stance, potentially an indication more member companies will follow suit. But it is McCoy who has led the way.

For this industry leader, she says the decision was simple. Perhaps more importantly, it reflects a leadership style that is driven not by a desire for popularity, but by strong values – compassion, collaboration, communication, and courage.

“As a leader, you can be respected but you can’t be popular and well-liked all the time,” Mc Coy tells MedNews. “You have to be comfortable with that to lead well. That’s not to say that you don’t listen – an important part of courage is to listen to views not similar to yours and to take them on board, to reflect on those and then make a decision taking everything into account.”

Taking the path less travelled

In deciding to introduce mandatory vaccines for her 100 staff, McCoy first took the time to listen but says as a company with its history deeply rooted in virology, she knew vaccines were the best way to protect her people from Covid and facilitate a safe return to the office – something she is particularly eager for.

“It is OK for people to decide to not be vaccinated, it’s just they won’t be able to continue to work for Gilead,” she says.

“It’s a legitimate choice and we shouldn’t make people feel lesser if they make that choice. We just need to be really clear on what Gilead stands for as an organisation and why, and that why is what is best for our people and the community. For me, that’s very simple and very clear – it was an easy decision at the end of the day.”

Leading differently and with purpose is part of both the Gilead and McCoy brands, with McCoy pointing to Gilead’s decades of success in HIV and HCV as the driver behind her decision to leave Eisai ANZ in September 2019 to take on her current role.

She brought with her not only a wealth of global career experiences in the industry but also a heart for the not for profit sector having previously worked for Beyond Blue, while the sole parent is also a foster carer; a practical demonstration of the compassion she considers so important in leadership.

“Having a connection with people that I work with is really important to me,” she explains. “We spend a lot of time at work and I want to work with people who are engaged and passionate about the patients we serve, driven to finding solutions to the healthcare challenges of the future.”

McCoy has built a high-powered leadership team at Gilead, taking on industry names such as former GBMA boss Belinda Wood, legal expert Ric Morgan, oncology head Lisa Perry and, just this week, former GSK country medical director Andrew Weekes joined the team as medical lead, enabling Paul Slade to step into the commercial director role.

McCoy says this team is focused on what is possible, particularly as the company expands its footprint in oncology. Gilead already has two cell therapies registered in Australia and its first solid tumour drug, antibody-drug conjugate Trodelvy, is showing enormous promise in a range of solid cancers starting in breast cancer.

“It’s super exciting,” McCoy says. “This is just the beginning for Trodelvy but I can’t imagine a more significant way to enter solid tumour oncology. Gilead always works in areas of scientific innovation – cell therapies, antivirals, antibody conjugates – amazing, transformative science.

“We need to continue to create a culture that drives strong performance for patients and I have a team around me that I feel is very capable of delivering that, and we are very aligned. We have a great dynamic in that we both challenge and support each other.”

Collaboration and communication

Along with courage and compassion, McCoy names collaboration and communication as being key attributes of her leadership style. She is a strong believer in the need for people with diverse backgrounds to thrash out ideas and come up with new solutions.

“For me, the happiest culture is one where there’s a lot of collaboration, where people do work in teams and really understand that ‘we’ is greater than ‘me’,” she says. “The power of being able to work with differing viewpoints, of diversity being a driver to reach better decisions and outcomes for the business – that’s really important to me.”

It is this ethos that is driving her desire for a return to the office as other companies suggest a drastic winding back of requirements for staff to physically attend the company HQ. Gilead offices will be open for business in 2022, says McCoy, with staff required to work a minimum of two days a week in the office as part of a “hybrid” model she is looking to introduce.

“There’s so much synergy that comes from being together and we don’t want to lose that,” McCoy says. “It’s going to be important for us to be back in the office but it’s also important for us to continue to offer people flexibility because we know that is best for everyone.”

With the bulk of its Australian staff based in Melbourne, Gilead people know better than most the challenges of lockdown and are undoubtedly keen to reconnect. With McCoy’s strong values backed by an impressive leadership team, this company will no doubt continue to lead, even if it takes others a while to follow.

©MedNews 2021

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