Empathy: I spent 5 years living/working abroad in Europe/Latam/Asia before I turned 30. These formative years taught me to pay careful attention to the environment and culture around me. I picked up on cues that helped me assimilate more effectively into those unfamiliar environments. I believe my careful listening skill and ability to look at the world through the eyes of those around me became one of my ‘superpowers’ (along with the ability to risk immodesty during job applications). When I was awarded the Pharmavoice 100 Award in 2018, I was quoted as saying “Empathy is my secret weapon.”
Leadership: As a technology entrepreneur who has built companies from the ground up, I strive to strike a balance between a data-driven, analytical approach and collaborative, service-oriented leadership to inspire teams to peak performance. When I sold the digital health company I had bootstrapped, mProve Health, to a private equity firm in 2017, I was far more proud of expanding our reach to deliver value for hundreds of thousands of patients in over 50 countries than the resulting proceeds of the sale.
Comfort in Ambiguity: In my life as a management consultant and a startup leader, I’ve regularly placed myself in situations where the rules and objectives were constantly changing. I learned how to be a self-starter in these environments, making progress in the areas where clarity exists while working in parallel to create additional clarity in those work areas that remain murky. For example, many of the product areas that I concepted at mProve were defined and built before we understood exactly how to efficiently deliver those products to clients. In each case, we managed to successfully “assemble the plane while flying it” and to thrive in uncertainty.
Humility: During my first year of strategy consulting, I was asked to move to Madrid and sit outside the office door of the CEO of a leading insurance company in Spain. In this role, at age 26, I was supposed to guide the executive team of this MetLife subsidiary through a transformation of their management practices. I was a newcomer to the insurance field and essentially had no business telling these executives how to do their jobs. In order to be successful in this role, I needed to demonstrate significant humility and exercise deference when appropriate while asserting the unique knowledge that I brought to bear. At the end of the engagement, the CEO offered me a newly-created position within his company, based on their satisfaction with how I carried myself. In both management consulting and as an entrepreneur, there have been countless times when I’ve needed to parachute into a client organization and interact effectively with individuals who have committed decades to that organization. I’ve found humility in my words and actions instrumental to success in these cases.
Determination: I’m not sure I fully grasped the extent of my determination until several years ago when I found myself working on the way to and from the hospital (and in my hospital bed immediately prior to/following surgery) following my acute appendicitis. Given that my last company was bootstrapped, we were never as fully resourced as we would have been had we accepted the many offers of outside capital that we received. As such, the workload was relentlessly high, and it always felt like we were competing with much larger and better capitalized companies. I enjoyed the underdog status, and each time we found ourselves in a competitive RFP, I would commit myself entirely to securing a positive outcome. I’ve come to realize that this is a quiet intensity that I involuntarily apply to anything that I decide to achieve.
Copyright 2021, Jeff Lee