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7 Questions on Leadership with Antonio Greenlee

Name: Antonio Greenlee

Title: Director of Operations

Oranisation: Thermo Fisher

I am a seasoned leader in the life sciences sector, boasting over 20 years of experience in driving operational and strategic excellence within the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. My career is marked by a strong ability to enhance operational efficiency, lead cross-functional teams, and implement significant process improvements and technological integrations.

My expertise spans contract manufacturing, quality assurance, regulatory compliance, and lean methodologies. Among my notable achievements are significant improvements in operational processes and a substantial increase in client satisfaction, demonstrating my exceptional capacity to lead teams towards greater efficiency and productivity.

Holding an MBA from Fayetteville State University and certifications like Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and ISO 9001:2015, I have continually expanded my knowledge and skills to stay at the forefront of the industry.

As a transformative leader, I am committed to driving innovation, quality, and operational excellence in the pharmaceutical industry. My leadership style is characterized by a dedication to team development, a focus on continuous improvement, and a passion for advancing the industry to new heights.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Antonio's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of leadership I have encountered is fostering a culture of continuous innovation and adaptability within teams. In the fast-paced and ever-evolving landscape of the life sciences sector, staying ahead of technological advancements and industry trends is crucial. As a leader, my challenge has been to not only keep myself updated and adaptable but also to inspire my team to embrace change and innovation.

I've found that encouraging a mindset where change is viewed as an opportunity rather than a hurdle is key. This involves creating an environment that supports learning, experimentation, and is tolerant of failure as a step towards progress. Balancing the need for innovation with the practical aspects of meeting project deadlines and maintaining high quality under regulatory constraints has been a delicate yet vital task.

Moreover, aligning diverse teams with varying expertise and perspectives towards a common goal while ensuring each member feels valued and understood has been an integral part of my leadership journey. It's about harnessing the unique strengths and insights of each team member and channeling them towards collaborative success.

In essence, the challenge has been about being a catalyst for change and a steward of growth, both for the organization and its people. This challenge, however, has been immensely fulfilling as it has led to significant professional development for my teams and breakthrough achievements for the organizations I've been part of.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My journey to leadership is deeply rooted in my beginnings on the blue-collar westside of Detroit, Michigan, where resilience, hard work, and a strong community ethic were ingrained in me from a young age. Growing up in a setting where every day was a lesson in perseverance and determination, I learned the value of dedication and the power of a strong work ethic.

These early life lessons from Detroit’s westside formed the cornerstone of my professional journey. Starting in the life sciences sector, I initially immersed myself in technical and process-oriented roles. This foundational experience was crucial, but I soon realized that my true calling was beyond the execution of tasks; it was in leading, strategizing, and driving teams towards excellence.

Volunteering for challenging projects and stepping into roles that stretched my capabilities, I began to shape my path in leadership. My transition from a hands-on expert to a strategic leader was further bolstered by academic pursuits like my MBA, and practical credentials such as Lean Six Sigma certifications. However, it was the spirit of Detroit - the grit, the resilience, and the drive to make a difference - that truly propelled me.

The essence of my leadership style has always been about embodying these values - fostering resilience, encouraging innovation, and building a sense of community within the teams I lead. My commitment to lifelong learning and adaptability has been key, allowing me to navigate and lead through complex challenges and dynamic industry shifts.

For me, leadership is more than a role; it's a commitment to inspire and empower those around me, drawing on the lessons from my upbringing in Detroit to create a positive and lasting impact in the life sciences sector.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My day begins at 5 AM, setting a productive and focused tone for what lies ahead.

Early Morning (5 AM to 8 AM): These early hours are dedicated to personal well-being and planning. I start with light exercise such as a brisk walk or stretching, followed by a healthy breakfast. This routine not only energizes me physically but also mentally prepares me for the day. Afterward, I spend time planning my day, setting clear objectives, and prioritizing tasks.

Work Commencement (8 AM to 12 PM): My workday officially starts at 8 AM with a review of urgent communications. I then focus on critical tasks that require my utmost attention and concentration, typically involving strategic planning and decision-making.

Midday Break (12 PM to 1 PM): I take a full hour for lunch, stepping away from work to recharge.

Afternoon (1 PM to 5 PM): The afternoon is reserved for meetings, team collaboration, and project management. I also ensure to address emails and other communications during this time.

Evening (5 PM onwards): Post 5 PM, I switch off from work to focus on personal and family time. This balance is crucial for maintaining overall well-being and productivity.

Ensuring a disciplined start with exercise and planning, followed by focused work and balanced with personal time, is key to my daily routine.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A recent leadership lesson that resonated with me anew is the power of active listening. In a fast-paced environment, it's easy to get caught up in the urgency of decision-making and problem-solving. However, I was reminded that taking the time to truly listen to team members - not just hearing them, but understanding their perspectives, concerns, and ideas - can lead to more effective solutions and a stronger, more engaged team. This experience reinforced that leadership is as much about listening and learning from others as it is about guiding and directing.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

One book that has profoundly impacted my approach to leadership is 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins. This book delves into why some companies make the leap to great performance while others don't. The concept of 'Level 5 Leadership,' which Collins describes as a blend of personal humility and professional will, particularly resonated with me.

The idea that effective leaders don't just possess charisma or authority, but also demonstrate humility, was transformative. It shifted my focus towards nurturing a culture of collective success over individual achievements. I started to prioritize building a team that shared a common vision and was committed to achieving excellence together. This book encouraged me to lead not just with determination but with empathy and a genuine investment in the growth and success of my team members.

Implementing these principles, I saw a significant positive change in team dynamics and performance. 'Good to Great' didn't just change my perspective on leadership; it provided practical insights that I could apply directly to my role, helping me evolve into a leader who inspires through action and integrity.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Embrace humility and continuous learning. Never assume you have all the answers; instead, be open to insights from your team and experiences. This approach not only fosters respect and collaboration but also drives personal and professional growth.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One story that stands out from my leadership journey involves a team member who was struggling with confidence. Despite their potential, they hesitated to contribute ideas during meetings. Recognizing this, I took a step back to mentor them, offering guidance while also encouraging them to take on a small project they showed interest in.

Their success on this project was a turning point. Not only did their confidence soar, but they also became an inspiration to others on the team. This experience reinforced to me the profound impact of recognizing and nurturing individual strengths. It was a powerful reminder that leadership is about uplifting others, fostering an environment where every team member feels valued and empowered to reach their full potential.

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