Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to “Spread Love in Organizations”, a podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.
I am Naji, your host, joined today by Karine Duquesne, Vice-President, General Manager of LEO Pharma France. Karine previously held the position of General Manager at Actelion Pharmaceuticals France, and Johnson & Johnson’s rare disease subsidiary prior to its merger with Janssen in 2020. She holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and has more than twenty years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry within various positions, from Medical Affairs to Head of Marketing and Sales. Karine is French and has enriched her career with international experiences in the USA within Janssen’s Global and Strategic teams in Immunology and Neuroscience. Karine is passionate about people development, innovation, diversity and inclusion.
Karine, It is a pleasure to see you again and have you with me today!
Karine Duquesne: Thank you, Naji, and thank you for hosting me today for this podcast on leadership.
Naji Gehchan: I would love first to learn more about your personal story. So what’s in between the lines of you becoming a pharmacist and now leading pharmaceutical companies as a general manager?
Karine Duquesne: My career is more Link to opportunity to really something that I have decided for a long time, um, science and caring for people was something very important for me when I was young, but, um, deciding between medicine, being a doctor or being a pharmacist was more because of some leaders I met.
during my, uh, my, um, my studies. And when I started as pharmacist, as a student, I decided first to work in a retail pharmacy in France because of the relationship you can have with people, with patients. I was so dedicated to patients that I thought firstly that my Part to play was to be close to people.
And then I met a fantastic leader, a woman from a GSK. And, um, she, uh, she shared with me, uh, job, uh, passion for the industry environment and how you can impact being part of, uh, the industry, uh, uh, company. So. I asked for a change in my student part and I moved from a retail pharmacy to, uh, to the, uh, industry development.
And then I joined, uh, Johnson as, um, as a mentee, not a mentee, as a trainee. And I spent 24 years with Johnson growing through the company. I think I have done, I have held all the position you can have, uh, in medical affairs, in commercial, in training, in compliance, everywhere. And I, I grew up like that, more, once again, it’s not a straight line.
It was more opportunity, new project, new people, new leaders that who really inspired me. And then I’m here today.
Naji Gehchan: I love it. Thanks for sharing this. Uh, you, you’ve led through, uh, out your career, as you said, different teams, uh, different functions, metaphor, commercial, and now general manager. You’ve also led in different countries, different companies.
Uh, now Johnson was your longest company you stayed, but you’ve, you moved since. Do you see a common thread or kind of a leadership theme leading people across all those experiences you had?
Karine Duquesne: I think the, the common thing is more linked to myself first is that I am really authentic. When you see me at work, I exactly the same person in my personal life, and it’s one of my conviction supporting people to be themself at work.
It’s really important. Um, the other thing is about passion. I think it this type of job. Um, you need to be passionate by your job to be sure that you can deliver and you can, uh, Go the extra mile because in our job we need to deliver. We need to care to take care of people. We need to manage so many different topics a day.
Um, we need to to start the day be so passionate, but. By our job and the reason why and my personal purpose is to serve the patient across, uh, the French environment today, but across the world and be sure that I can be a small piece in a big part and contribute to that. So you shared this
Naji Gehchan: as you transition from being in retail pharmacy and working with patients directly to now this word and you go back to your purpose and passion that I think many of us, if not all of us in healthcare actually really have this helping patients live better.
Can you Tell us a little bit, because I have a lot of those discussions with still practitioners, how do you see your impact daily? How are you missing this patient interaction, for example, that you had in the pharmacy, or how do you see it today? Um, the
Karine Duquesne: way I am see today is more across the patient organization.
I had the chance that’s really important for me to keep a strong link and relationship with the, the, the people leading a patient association in France. It was really important in rare disease for sure, because especially during the COVID period, I remember. The time we spent with the head of the patient association we worked with at that time, just to be sure that we can, uh, be present even during the COVID period and to serve patients.
And we, we, um, we were so passionate to be sure that we can support them more than before, that we can push all the barriers with the support of the French healthcare system. And for example, for people, um, suffering from pH. going to the hospital during the COVID period to receive their injection, it was too dangerous for them.
And you can’t, um, bring the treatment to their home in France. During the COVID period, we had exceptional authorization for the health care authority to do that for them. So it was tough to imagine we can do that. But in two weeks, We make that possible. So that’s for me the best example about caring for patients and be close to them, even if you work in a pharma company.
So you can do that every day. Next week, um, we will organize, um, a race. And the race it’s about the patient suffering from, um, infirmary chronic disease. Uh, and we will all the employee of the company running for them. So there are different way to support and to be present, uh, for patient according their association.
And every day when I woke up, I wake up, I know that I will work for them. Whatever, that’s my way to think about that every day. It’s
Naji Gehchan: certainly why we wake up every morning. I’m interested now to take you a little bit back in time, but one of the questions that I frequently have since I also, like you, French, moved to the U.
S., I frequently get this question about your, your experience in the U. S. So I’d love to get your thoughts on this. What’s common and how did you lead in different cultures? What did you learn from those, uh, different experiences?
Karine Duquesne: Yes, the it was an amazing experience for me and for my family because I moved with my kids and my my spouse.
It was really amazing. The difference in terms of culture is huge. But when you talk about leadership for me, there’s no difference. Um, remaining who I am. So optimistic, so energized every day, so passionated by my work, um, how I can impact, how I can support my colleague, be a good partner. I guess I did that in the same way than what I was doing when I was leading an organization in France.
And very, very quickly, I was the French woman. People would like to have lunch. With just to share something new. And, um, when I was in France before moving to us, I had a lot of opportunity to mentoring people to mentor people. So I have mentee in Europe, um, in France, in my organization, outside of my organization.
And I’m, when I moved to us, I realized that it was known and. U. S. colleagues asked me to mentor them or mentor someone in their team. So for me, that means that, uh, being authentic, supporting people, look, be so, um, focused on people development. It’s something that you can drive or develop in the same way, whatever the country.
Naji Gehchan: I definitely share your view about how to lead and the way you lead people. It’s kind of human, right? Like the human way that you’re describing. I’m interested. You said, uh, you were the French woman when you were in the U S and I know. You’re passionate about diversity inclusion on those topics are sometimes tricky like we have different views you might have enjoyed being recognized a French woman or not, actually, so I’m really interested in your view about this specific example, but also more broadly, how do you think about diversity equity inclusion within within your teams?
Karine Duquesne: It took me a long time before being so focused on the Um, woman traits of leadership, because firstly, being a young leaguer, um, It was really important for me to be recognized as a leader before then being recognized as a female leader. But right now, knowing the, and having a young woman, um, I talked with about their career.
I realized how it’s still difficult to grow as a female and be authentic. And, uh, even right now with more mature female leader, they’re There is always this question. Can we be ourself as a leader? I am a mom of two teenagers. To be honest, my more difficult job is to be a mom. It’s more rewarding, but it’s so difficult every day.
So I think that being able to be vulnerable at work, it’s perhaps something that seems to be a female traits, but I’m sure that you are someone that can show your vulnerability, Najee. I know you a little bit. I know you can. So it’s not only female traits, but because the gender equity is not there, we need to be supportive and be sure that there are equal chance for young women to be, uh, Perhaps more supported and to have the same change that the young men to develop themselves and to be themselves and not trying to change their way of working to make people understand that they can be a good leader.
Can you share with
Naji Gehchan: us some examples where you helped young leaders, women, uh, leaders throughout your organizations and how do you do this to ensure that those opportunities, especially that now you have this influence and power, if I can say, you know, as a general manager, how do you ensure this is happening consistently across your organization?
Karine Duquesne: I do that through different ways. The first thing is that, uh, um, being a role model, Uh, not to be a focus on myself, but just to be sure that, uh, I can show young female leader that you can be yourself. You can be a mom. You can say, I can’t join this meeting because my son is sick or because it’s his birthday.
And it’s more important for me that this meeting, you know, these small things that in business, most often you keep for yourself and you manage as you can. And just showing that, uh, you can develop yourself, you can grow. In a company, in an organization, why be so clear that your children will remain your first focus and, um, same thing being authentic, sharing some, uh, personal difficulties, sometimes not my personal life, I can talk a lot, but just to share that.
It’s difficult for me too. Some days, I’m sick. Some days, I’m not in a good shape. And don’t try to hide this difficult moment because it’s human beings. So same word, being authentic. In another way, I use different mentoring program because I think sometimes it’s not only about someone being there. You need to structure the approach.
And help people just to say I would like to be supported or what does that mean to to have a mentor compared to a coach or compared to More senior leaders pushing on your back. So just giving some example and um and having um a structured approach meaning something that will last long time enough to be supportive because on only one discussion or one touch point is not enough to really deep dive and support someone in the right way.
Those are great
Naji Gehchan: practical examples. And I love what you shared about having your kids birthdays or any milestone in their life. I remember a great mentor once told me, uh, you will, you will always remember a missed birthday, but you will never remember why you missed it or the meeting you were in and what decision you made in the business side.
So I love those examples. Um, you, you. You’re talking a lot about authenticity, and I want to, like, ask you a question, and vulnerability, like, this is something, as you said, I also believe in. One of the pushbacks, or one of the things people would be afraid of is being perceived as weak, once you’re in leadership positions, if you’re sharing those vulnerable moments.
So, I’m intrigued throughout your career. Up to this, the now where you are and being able to say vulnerably, like I’m not feeling well, or you know, all the discussions we’re having on mental health, how do you think through this and making sure you’re not weak when people actually need you to be strong or being vulnerable when you feel is the right moment?
Is there a moment in time where you feel like you can share, not share? I’m intrigued about how you think about
Karine Duquesne: this. I think it took me time before really. Sharing that with authenticity. Um, for two reasons. The first one is that, um. I think I’m strong. People knowing me, most of the, the leaders I, I knew for years, they started to tell me, you are a man disguised in a woman.
That’s the worst things you can tell me because I’m a woman. So, but perhaps my self confidence and the way I, I say what I think. With a lot of transparency, I’m very direct. So people see me as a strong person and, um, as a man, you know, it took me a time to share vulnerability because it was difficult for me, for me to see my own for new vulnerability, but with experience, because life is about experience, you learn step by step by step that, uh, um, it’s more failures that make you learn than the success you had.
So with that in mind, um, I started to share and it’s about one person. I remember one of my extraordinary PA, my personal assistant, one day she told me, you’re sick, you’re not in a good shape, but you are still there. What do you think? What do you think about the example you give to the young people in your team?
That means that even if you will die, you will come at work. Are you proud of yourself? That was a wake up call for me. And from this day, I can remember this day, um, and I remember Nejima telling me that And with that in mind, I totally changed my thinking about that. And, uh, I started to, to listening to myself first.
And it, the starting point is to start with yourself before telling the other one about vulnerability. And, uh, and right now it’s easy for me to share that. Um, but most often, especially young female, they told me it’s easy for you to, to say you are vulnerable. Because people don’t see you like that. But for me, because I’m, uh, I’m, uh, young, I’m blonde hair.
I seems to be weak by myself. If I share something personal, people will say, Ah, she has too much emotions, too many emotions. Say no, you are who you are. But it’s, uh, it’s a kissing.
Naji Gehchan: No, for sure. Yeah. And, you know, thanks for sharing this and saying it’s just. Like, I don’t know if it’s absurd or not, but it’s the reality, right?
Like what you shared about you being a man disguised, right? Like we, we constantly hear this. It’s, uh, I’m sure we as men hear it less. I heard though, like it’s my woman side of things when I’m more into the humanistic part of, of leadership, which, which. Which is mind blowing, right? Like, it’s just how we separate these.
I’m in a constant fight also, even in retail stores about why my daughters can get their NASA shirts or, you know, astronauts shirts it’s in the voice section, it’s just like, this is how we construct all those biases, unfortunately. Socially. So thanks for doing what you’re doing and pushing people and the society to be better.
Karine Duquesne: Yeah. And my, my way to, um, I love your expression to spread love for me. My way to do that is to spread some of my tips and I do that with all the women I mentor and with all the general manager, female general manager, I am. I met, I told them if I support you, if I help you, if I am a. your mentor and you, you feel that it helps you.
I just have one, one question and one request to yourself is please do that to two other women after. Because if I support you, you need to do and to replicate the same at minimum to two other female. So that’s a way to spread. So I am, I check after they do.
Naji Gehchan: I want not to go into, uh, Kind of a game where I will give you a word and I would love the first reaction that comes to your mind. So the first word is leadership.
Karine Duquesne: Um,
servant leader, two words.
Naji Gehchan: Can you tell us a little bit more?
Karine Duquesne: Um, for me, it’s, it’s really, uh, related to what I mentioned before. Um, and it, it means for me a lot to be. Not only focused on people development, but to look how I can, uh, support the team just to be sure. Um, I will listen to all the voices and be sure that the time I will dedicated to them will be something really, uh, supporting COVID
period. I spent a lot of time to think about the way we will lead our organization after the COVID. And, uh, for me, servant leadership is one of the most impactful way of leading an organization right now. And, uh, be sure that, um, we can, uh, be part of a team, but be sure that everybody at of the, uh, organization as a world.
Uh, as a voice that, uh, will be listened and, um, as opportunity to understand that, um, they, they can make a difference and that really important in the organization. It was part of my introduction yesterday during my sales meeting that you are all. an important piece of our own team, of our own puzzle. And every day, the impact of the difference you will make, at the end, that will make a big difference for the patients.
And that’s for me, uh, the most important thing.
Naji Gehchan: And this has always fascinated me, right? Like in healthcare when comparing to healthcare provider, which is also an enormous noble purpose, right? And you help patients every day, but truly through leadership and our organizations, the impact that you can have and each one.
work is so important to change someone’s life. So reminding our people constantly about the importance of our purpose and why they do what they do is so important. I’m going to go through attention and not another word because I’m, I’m interested. Uh, since, uh, one of the big topics is hybrid work, you said you thought a lot about how, how to lead organizations after COVID.
It’s one of those big topics these days. How do you think of this as a, you’re leading a country and, uh, actually says it’s pretty virtual usually. So I’m, I’m intrigued. How, how do you think about hybrid work or future work, whatever you want to call it.
Karine Duquesne: For me, hybrid is, um, It’s still about relationship. I remember during the COVID, starting every morning with a coffee.
So we had time virtually to take our coffee together like before the coffee machine, but be sure that we can start together. And for me, it was an opportunity to check that, you know, the small signal, someone feeling alone, someone not doing well. And just be sure that this personal moment can make a difference.
Right now, it’s quite different because you have face to face meeting. You have virtual meeting, and you have this hybrid part where part of the team is, uh, is in virtual, the other one are in the same meeting room. And for me, whatever the mode, if you have built before a strong relationship and you take care of Each person in, um, in the meeting room, virtual or not?
You can, um, you can do the same. The difference is that you need to be more, um, explicit, uh, giving some rules. For example, be present when you are in a face-to-face meeting. You can be present and you can have your computer. just in front of you and looking at your emails coming and not being present to the meeting.
So in virtual mode, you can’t see that. So it’s something you need to check more or to share some rules that are part of the way to live together and not being in a meeting. So it’s about human relationship. And what is the most difficult things for me is, is COVID. Plus the new generation with remote time.
What will be the key clue to motivate people? How can you make and design a team or make people feeling they are part of a team or a company if most of the time they are working from home? The question is not about working or not working. It’s about feeling that you are part of the company. Because you are so far from your colleagues, you have not all these, uh, small moments that are more personal than professional.
And, uh, that’s a key question in, uh, for me. That’s a
Naji Gehchan: really important one. Belonging, right? Making sure that people feel they belong. And that’s one of the most important parts of diversity, equity, inclusion, actually, if you feel this. Feeling of belonging and part of a bigger purpose. The second word is innovation.
You have to share a little bit more.
Karine Duquesne: No, treatment for sure. Being part of a, of a pharma company. Innovation means new treatment. And for me, it’s, um. The hope we can cure most of the disease because most often I launched treatment that were for chronic disease where we were a treatment to make people having a better life with their disease, but the few opportunity I had in my career to cure a disease.
It was only one time in hepatitis C. So to be honest, it’s not enough. That’s perhaps. Innovation. It’s more about hop.
Naji Gehchan: What about general
Karine Duquesne: management? Diversity.
It means for me that every day you can touch so many different topics a day. And, uh, because I’m so curious, you have opportunity to deal with many different topic in your company. But being curious, that means you have a lot of external interaction. So it’s like, for sure, you lead your organization, you need to deliver your, your target.
But you have opportunity to open a lot of new doors. Giving opportunity to deal with new ideas and create something new, new ways of working, new ways of developing people. And it’s exactly what I love. And it’s not about the size of your company. It’s about the way you look at your job.
Naji Gehchan: The last one is spread love in organizations.
Karine Duquesne: Kindness.
And the reason why I use this word is because I love the word love. But when I talk about love with people, they told me it’s not for a company. It’s for your personal life and most often kindness when you translate in France, in French, it’s very mis, uh, misunderstood because for me, taking care of people, it means that you be, you will be supportive, but you will be.
Demanding in same time. So it’s not something a week. It’s something about looking at people with positive eyes, giving them a safety space when they can learn, they can grow, they can share their difficulties or this and be able to to be celebrated for success, but same time when you are authentic, you are direct and positive.
You can share with people constrictive feedback. Sometimes tough feedback, but you can help people to understand if they fit with their job, with their position. And it’s not about themselves. They are not bad people or good people. It’s about being sure that at this moment of your life, at this moment of the company with this culture, you are fitting with this position.
What is the core business you need to deal with and be sure that you are happy. With that. So it’s not you need to be courageous. So for me, kindness, love. Most often people misunderstood. What does that mean? And it’s, uh, it’s about challenge. It’s about caring. It’s a mix. Lack in personal life, huh? .
Naji Gehchan: Exactly.
And I love how you framed it because when you truly care, you’re supportive and extremely demanding actually. Yeah. Because you believe in people capabilities and you want them to be at their best. So I love how you framed it. Any final word of wisdom kain for healthcare leaders
Karine Duquesne: around the world? My final words will be, um, perhaps the one I started with, saying that, um, uh, being authentic, be yourself, whatever happens, it’s something that will drive you to your best, that’s my personal conviction, and, uh, it’s about alignment.
With yourself, your purpose, what you are dealing with every day, and I’m sure that the best way to be a happy to develop yourself and be able to support. and develop others around you. Well, thank you
Naji Gehchan: so much for such a great discussion and for being with me today.
Karine Duquesne: Thank you for the opportunity and, and, um, it was great to have opportunity to, to discuss leadership because most often we talk about figures and talking about leadership and people.
It’s really important for me. So thank you for this opportunity. Naji Gehchan: Oh, thank you for being here. And as you said, several times without leadership, you obviously cannot deliver exceptionally well. So it’s interlinked and thanks so much for all your vision about this. Thank you.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to SpreadLove in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on spreadloveio.com. We’re eager to hear your thoughts and feedback. Most importantly, spread love in your organizations and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement, our world so desperately needs