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Gordon Cameron, vice-president, Asia Pacific Area, Takeda Pharmaceuticals International, shares his views on leadership, developing work relationships and HR in this conversation with Jerene Ang.
Q: You’ve been with Takeda for almost eight years, how has your experience been?
The past eight years with Takeda have been extremely rewarding. Takeda has globalised in focus and provided me and others interesting career opportunities to develop personally and technically. I started in a global role with Takeda in the UK before moving to Zurich, and thereafter, to Singapore.
It has been a great learning journey – being able to see a 235-year-old Japanese company globalising. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with people from different cultures and backgrounds, see different styles of leadership and also see people develop within the Takeda family. Most importantly, it has allowed me to be part of something I’m very proud of, in the way we have brought our medicines to patients in Asia Pacific.
Q: How would you define your leadership style?
I hope my leadership style reflects inclusiveness, representing the 10 countries and various cultures we have within Asia Pacific. Inclusive so it also reflects different functional experts, including medical, HR, compliance and legal among others from my management team, with the end intent to make the best decisions for the benefit of patients across our markets.
Q: Having held various roles across Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom, what similarities and differences do you notice in managing people across these markets?
The major difference I have seen between the markets I have worked in is the importance given to developing relationships, particularly in the east. In Asia we invest the time to develop relationships before decisions are made to ensure that all the necessary stakeholders are fully aligned.
Q: What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make as a boss?
The toughest decisions one has to make as leader is when people have to leave the organisation. It is important to ensure these situations are handled with utmost dignity. One must aim to provide relevant context and support individuals professionally to make the separation as smooth as possible.
Q: What is the best career advice you have received?
To make sure I am passionate about and enjoying the work I am doing. It is essential to find work that is intellectually demanding and stimulates you so one is motivated and able to make a difference.
Q: How do you engage and motivate staff when they are struggling with work?
It is critical to explain to your employee the importance of their work and how their contribution makes a difference. Our business strategies are clear, and they include bringing our products to patients – that in itself is quite motivating. At Takeda, we take pride in being a patient-centric organisation and our staff recognise the work they do directly affects those in need.
Q:What is your view of human resources as a business function?
As a global organisation invested in our employees, we need to focus on a long-term plan for our colleagues at different levels and across different countries and HR plays a pivotal role in this evolution. Tools such as individual development plans and training are essential for the success of an individual. At the core, HR plays an important role in continued engagement and this holds true irrespective of geography and culture.
Q: What’s the biggest talent challenge in the pharmaceutical sector in Singapore?
In Singapore, we are very fortunate to have access to a large pool of highly trained talent across different disciplines. The single function that has posed more of a challenge is the medical function. Takeda’s speciality portfolio, which is inclusive of products in oncology and gastrointestinal (GI), require specialist medical doctors who can help us better understand our patients.
Q: How can HR contribute better to organisational goals?
Human resources holds a key role in helping Takeda prepare for the future. HR is charged with the responsibility of helping the organisation develop our colleagues and seeking the best talent externally so we are able to implement and achieve our strategic goals.
Q: Can HR leaders make it to a CEO level? Why/why not?
Yes, I believe it is possible that HR leaders can aspire to become CEOs. After all, people are the most important asset of any organisation. I certainly feel there is no barrier if they have the right experiences.