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The Fred Factor: Fred Hassan

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  • "Being brutally honest, you actually build trust and build credibility"
  • "Leadership is the element ... where you build the passion to go for the wind"
  • "If people think you have another agenda, they don't support you as much"
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(CNN) -- If your drug company is on its death-bed, this is the man you want as your corporate doctor. He's Fred Hassan, the CEO of drug giant Schering-Plough. In the past 25 years, he has turned around his fair share of ailing pharmaceutical firms, including the recovery and subsequent 56 billion dollar sale of Pharmacia. He's so renowned within his industry that they coined a phrase for his brand of management: "The Fred Factor." Hassan tells The Boardroom's Maggie Lake how he is able to assess, diagnose and cure.


Fred Hassan, CEO of Schering-Plough

Lake: You've built a reputation as a turn-around expert in the pharmaceutical industry. Why do you succeed where others fail?

Hassan: Well, I do have a good reputation as a turnaround person, but I'd like to say that I am more a turnaround-and-transform person. I like to also build for the long term. Managers in a conventional environment are pretty good at dealing with issues. But when you have multiple issues, that's where the biggest challenge is. So the first thing is to identify the problem and to be brutally honest about the issue and to share that with the people. Because being brutally honest, you actually build trust and build credibility.

Lake: It sounds like all very tough stuff, being brutally honest, in some cases cutting costs aggressively. I know you changed the commission setup at Schering-Plough, and yet you are described as very amicable, very inclusive -- Those two things don't seem to go together to me.

Hassan: I think it's very important that people in the corner office have a humanity in them. And they cannot build trust, they cannot get people to rally behind them, if there is not that personal trust. You need to be in tune, and that comes partly from the inside. If you care about people, and if you know that your way to success is through people, then you have to be a decent human being to start with.

Lake: Do you think your employees have to like you?

Hassan: Not necessarily because you can't be a person who does polling and pandering. You have to be a leader. And leaders sometimes have to be unpopular.

Lake: I notice you talk about leaders, not managers. What's the difference?

Hassan: Manager means you administer, you execute, against the plan, you get people organized, it's a very important part of management. But leadership is the element where you build the emotional connection. Where you build the passion to go for the wind. That's something where it really does matter, because if you can get people to rally behind the cause, you can get extraordinary energy built up in the system.

Lake: Did you always have a goal being a CEO, or is something that just sort of happened along the career path?

Hassan: It happened along the career path. My focus always was to focus on the job in front of me and not focus on the next promotion. Because if you focus on the job in front of you, people give you more of their trust. And you get more out of the people around you. If people think you have another agenda, then they don't support you as much.


Lake: People call it "The Fred Factor." What do you think that means, the Fred Factor"?

Hassan: There were a lot of people who wanted this place to be broken up and sold off, and I just feel that my coming in there, showing a sense of confidence working with the people, making them feel good about themselves, I could say, maybe that's what's the Fred Factor is at Schering-Plough. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Schering-Plough CorporationFred Hassan

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