“One of the most important traits of a good leader is vision”

Sebastian Horn MD is Head of Global Patient Safety and Pharmacovigilance, responsible for managing safety information for Teva’s product portfolio and ensuring patient safety comes first. His pharmacovigilance colleagues are located around the world, with large hubs in several key Teva locations including Croatia, Israel, Romania, and New Jersey. Based in Ulm, Germany, Sebastian talks to us about the vital importance of patient safety and the process of building trust.

Our patient-first mindset and extensive patient reach strongly positions Teva to improve patients’ lives. It is our strong belief in patient centricity combined with our breadth, reaching more than 200 million patients every day, that I find remarkable and inspirational. 

Trust is essential for a pharmaceutical company’s success. My vision, and also what motivates me every day, is an aspiration to make Teva the most trusted pharma company on the planet. I want everybody inside and outside of the company to say: “This product comes from Teva, so I know I can trust it”.

Unfortunately, the pharma industry overall suffers with a poor reputation among the general public, the same people who believe a long and healthy life is an important priority. Health benefits brought with help from the healthcare sector, such as longer life expectancy, the reduction of childhood mortality and the ability to fight disease and find relief from uncomfortable symptoms, get lost in the public’s lack of trust. The good news is that this challenge for the healthcare sector is an opportunity for Teva. Companies like Teva that are able to consistently put the patient first and maintain high quality standards will be successful.

Vision gives a sense of purpose. I think one of the most important traits of a good leader is vision. Clear vision gives direction when facing otherwise hard-to-make decisions. Clear vision provides a sense of purpose and resilience when things don’t go as expected. A stand-out leader is authentic, confident and instils confidence in others. If the leader is not confident, who will be? I also believe authenticity is important in a leader. There’s no need to copy someone else’s style. Be yourself.

When dealing with challenges, I always advise people to have a big vision, and don’t listen to the nay-sayers. 

Teamwork makes the dream work. I’ve set three priorities for my team - 1) patients 2) operational excellence and 3) people and culture. Every company basically has the same access to knowledge, raw materials and financial funding. The difference between organizations comes mainly from people and the culture that supports how they work together. 

The culture that supports a growth mindset and encourages trying new approaches, while offering support and looking for solutions rather than allocating blame, is the culture that distinguishes successful companies. Motivated and qualified colleagues working collaboratively as high-performing teams form the basis for a system that is simple, efficient and well-controlled. This sturdy foundation allows us to focus on excelling, being fully compliant and doing what is right for patients.

I live in Germany, south of Munich, with my wife and two children. In my free time, I enjoy doing water sports and going to the mountains.

People are important to me. I find a horrible place with nice people much more enjoyable then a nice place with horrible people.

I believe in the value of mentorship. Mentorship helps turn commitments into actions. A good mentor guides a mentee to act on personal or professional change because sometimes the two are intertwined. There are situations when we cannot make change in our lives even when we understand the need to change and want to change. The mentor you choose should have experiences similar to yours and be able to relate to the challenges you face. A mentor also should be trained on mentoring concepts. There’s one issue, however, even the best mentor can’t influence: a mentee needs to really want to change and be open to feedback, suggestions and coaching.

Pursue excellence. I am motivated by people who pursue excellence and have a mindset for the future rather than live in the past. A few years ago I met an Olympic gold medal swimmer. His formula for success was very systematic - he studied the times after each race and determined what he needed to do to improve. There was no resting on past records or comparing himself to other swimmers. He competed against himself.

If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to listen to my heart more than my head. When I grew up, the general advice on careers was “Do what you are good at.” But I take a different approach with my kids who are now thinking about their future. I tell them: “If you want to do something, try it. You won’t know if it’s for you unless you do”. Not everything has to be determined by a decision tree. If you’re passionate about something, it will find you.

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