ABHISHEK: An Exceptional Leader Empowering His People By Trusting Them & Giving Them The Reins Without Any Micromanagement
Chief Operating Officer, Eli Lilly Services India
Eli Lilly and Company is one of the leading global pharmaceutical companies, started its commercial operations in India in 1993 in Gurgaon, NCR. It recently opened its unique Capability center in Bangalore in 2016. Starting an in-house capabilities center in India was an opportunity which was identified to contribute to Lilly’s purpose. LCCI exists to build great capabilities for the future that will help Lilly achieve its mission of helping people live longer, healthier, and more active lives. A global organization, it is committed to discovering innovative medicines that make life better for people around the world. It leads through discovery of breakthrough pharmaceutical products to treat diseases in Diabetes, Immunology, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and Pain.
Abhishek, Chief Operating Officer of Eli Lilly Services India or Lilly Capability Center India (LCCI) is one of the key leaders in the team tasked with charting and executing the firm’s strategic growth in the country. Starting his career at Lilly in the Sales team, Abhishek has held varied positions in the commercial arm and then at LCCI. He currently is the COO of this young six year old organization. Under his able collaborative leadership, the firm has grown significantly as one of the leading pharmaceutical capability centers in the country growing four fold in the past two years amidst the challenging backdrop posed by the pandemic in the country.
In an exclusive interview with CEO Insights Asia, Abhishek shares about his professional journey so far, his definition of building a successful team as well as his leadership approach, and much more.
How would you describe your professional journey so far? What have been the most significant takeaways from this journey?
I feel blessed to be part of an industry that helps people live longer and healthier lives. After my MBA, I was
all set to start my career in Sales & Marketing, and I started as a Sales Trainee at Eli Lilly in its commercial area. Thereafter, I have had the privilege to have held numerous positions in sales and later in HR. The opportunity to work in the team that launched the Lilly Capability Center in 2016 was godsend and it has been a humbling experience and privilege to be a part of this journey. LCCI continues to make its presence felt as a key element in the Lilly flywheel and the company purpose. Today we have 2000+ bright talents helping us serve our patients better. Along the way I have learnt and grown to become the organization’s Chief Operating Officer. The overall journey has provided me an opportunity to transform from just execution to becoming an enabler where I can enable the organization to do more and create an impact on the larger canvas and, in the turn of events, have become its COO.
The overall journey has made me understand the firm better in terms of operation, purpose, and people. I have learned not to get complacent, have the hunger to learn & explore more, and not to be afraid of taking risks. In terms of the values of our firm, I have learned to win with integrity, constantly strive for excellence, and always respect people. I believe forging new relationships while maintaining the old ones is the key to long-term success.
How do you perceive the changing role of a COO within an organization? What are the new skills, traits, and knowledge that are crucial for a COO to be successful today?
The role of a Chief Operating Officer goes beyond operations and has a lot of anticipation, strategy and being cognizant of the human element especially as we are a people business. A COO is the flag bearer of the purpose and culture of the organization and needs to ensure the right balance between achieving that purpose while keeping the people, who make the culture of the company, at the center of everything he/ she does. Coming to the new skill sets and knowledge required, according to me, strong soft skills improved daily, eye for talent, rewarding/recognizing/ motivating, digital dexterity, and the constant need to innovate are crucial for a successful COO. Creating policies as well as executing decisions that help the organization sail through rough waters with a robust strategy and technological agility is another key determinant trait for a COO. One of the statements made by Colonel Eli Lilly, the founder of our firm, is “Take what you find here and make it better and better”, and I always make sure that I imbibe it in whatever I do and would even suggest the same if you want to frame it in terms of an attitude.
What are the radical factors you consider while building a successful team? What are the traits that you look for in a potential member of your team?
A key task for any leader is to build a successful team of people who can deliver upon the role, build a succession pipeline, and can be the future leaders in the organization. I always look to hire people who are best in their domain knowledge and even have more knowledge than me. A key aspect that makes a team complete and brings the best out of it is keeping diversity, equity, and inclusion at its core. I also ensure that the entire team feels connected with the purpose of the organization and is accountable for driving the organization to succeed. I also empower the team with full trust by giving them the decision-making authority while making sure that they have the zeal to succeed through empowerment.
Coming to individuals, I look for self-driven individuals who are a good cultural fit in the organization and have an innovation-driven mindset with a passion for people as well as for science & technology. They also need to be self-made leaders and not followers as I strongly believe that everybody has the leadership ability in themselves and all it requires is making them aware of those.
Tell us about your leadership approach. What are the principles that you are guided by? What is your success mantra?
My leadership approach has been enabling people to take ownership by giving the reins rather than micromanaging them while periodically evaluating their achievements. I believe in empowering them by showing confidence as well as trust in them and their abilities. I also believe in acknowledging their importance as well as creating a sense of belongingness. Another major factor is the feedback mechanism, where I let them do a lot of self-introspection as well as situational analysis.
Coming to my success mantra, I feel that for a leader, walking the talk and practicing what you preach is very important. I set the bar very high for myself as well as for the team and together we strive to achieve it. As an enabler, I try to create room for experimentation, so that even if they fail, they will learn from it and do even better next time.
Abhishek, Chief Operating Officer, Eli Lilly Services India
Apart from being the Chief Operating Officer of Eli Lilly Services India also known as Lilly Capbility Center India, Abhishek also heads the HR department. Starting his career in sales at Lilly in 2003, he rose through the ranks rapidly while gaining unique insights on business acumen, high-performance culture, and people orientation. An alumnus of IBS Hyderabad and The Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad, Abhishek is one of the founding members of LCCI. He is also a Marshall Goldsmith Certified Executive Coach, Certified in Hogan Assessment, and Certified Trainer for the Targeted Selection Program from Development Dimensions International.
•Hobbies: Spending time with my daughters & family members & Physical fitness
•Favorite Cuisine: Desi Ghar Ka Khana (Homemade food)
•Favorite Book: Atomic Habits & My Life in full
•Favorite Travel Destination: My native place in Bihar & Jharkhand