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7 Questions on Leadership with Tiffany Olson

Name: Tiffany Olson

Title: Board Member

Organisation: Telix Pharmaceuticals

Tiffany Olson has held CEO, president, and senior leadership positions in international Fortune 100 healthcare companies. She currently serves as a board member for Telix Pharmaceuticals, Castle Biosciences, and Langham Logistics. Tiffany is a thought leader, advisor, and speaker with a goal of inspiring companies to bring their teams to the next level of connection and leadership.

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

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


Jonno White

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

I have found that sometimes the larger your organization gets, the slower it can become. I think it is extremely important to try and not let bureaucracy get in the way of moving quickly towards your goals. There is always an opportunity to “look under the hood” and review processes, remove non-value-added steps, and cut through the clutter to get things done more quickly and efficiently. Don’t let the layers of an organization hinder you, but instead focus your energy on finding ways to streamline activities and gain efficiency.

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

From the time I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to run a business. While other girls were playing Barbie, I played store. I was making a profit at 5 years old. I knew I was born to be a leader. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, my career started in the healthcare industry. Over the years, helping science gain a voice has been very important to me. Many years of my career were with Roche Diagnostics where I held multiple roles in the U.S. and in Europe, eventually leading to becoming President and CEO of Roche Diagnostic Corporation.

I spent time at Eli Lilly and Company leading an effort to formulate their strategy with companion diagnostics and had other opportunities that focused on personalizing medicine through innovative diagnostics. For over eight years, I served as president of Cardinal Health Nuclear and Precision Health Solutions During this time, profit was quadrupled while customer and employee loyalty reached an all-time high. I recently retired and am now devoting time to board work in healthcare and life science, speaking engagements and advising.

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

Since I started working when I was 16 years old, I realized that having a routine and structure helps me to achieve my goals. In the morning, I spend the first 10 minutes with my journal thinking about what is going well and what I need to do today to help me reach my goals. Next, I try to do a gratitude walk, just 30 minutes where I focus on my blessings and positive events.

Then I’m ready for my day and anything that it may bring. The idea of “self-care” has really crystalized for me this past year. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. It’s like they say on airplanes – put your own mask on before assisting others. Since retiring, I am not racing against the clock.

I can devote more in-depth quality time to what matters to me. It is a combination of board work, meetings for industry events, reading journals, papers etc., volunteer work, and most importantly, time with friends and family. Most people strive for a good work-life balance, but it is all life. I am more aware of that now.

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

The most important leadership lesson can be summed up in three words – “Listen, Learn, Lead.” First, you must be an active listener to employees at every level in the organization, peers, and industry experts. Listen for what is being said and equally, what is not being said. It is in the quiet you find out what is going on in the organization and where there may be chokepoints. You must be willing to meet with employees and ask how we can collectively improve. This takes trust from both parties and humility from the leader. Leaders do not always have the answers, but incorporating ideas and information from the full team creates ultimately the best outcomes. Only after listening and learning can you lead your team.

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?

For me, it is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Even though this book came out two decades ago, it still resonates with me to this day. One piece in particular that stood out is the flywheel effect. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get the flywheel moving in a positive direction – as no single push makes the difference. Instead, it is a culmination of a lot of little efforts that get it to move. And you must have the right people in place for it to really take hold and see the huge gains that are possible. A good example of this is that several years ago, customers were telling us that we were no different than our competitors, that there was nothing that differentiated us from all the others in the market. I brought the team together. We listened to customer feedback and started to take steps to improve our products, services, and structure. And it paid off. We saw huge gains in customer loyalty, and we did it all by taking that first step as a team, pushing the flywheel together and building upon the success.

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

Find a mentor. I had a mentor early on who asked me, “Who else will carry your torch?” Meaning who will tell your story, who will continue to help you to lead, who will mention your name in a room for career opportunities and advocate on your behalf? If you’re just beginning, find out if your company has a formal mentoring program and enroll. If no formal program exists, don’t worry, you can create your own program. Find someone you admire and ask them for coffee. People love to be asked for their advice or recommendations, take advantage of this. Then keep the relationship going. You’ll be surprised at the opportunities that will come your way.

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

When I was president at Cardinal Health, we used a “One Team” approach to change the culture and overcome some unique challenges. Prior to the cultural change. we had customer feedback about our lack of differentiation in the market. Change was needed, but as a leader, I needed the team to work together on the same goal. By bringing the team together, making sure everyone understood the goal and their role, we became “One Team” with one goal. When this happened, new ways of working were created internally and with customers. We achieved stellar results. There is nothing better as a leader to know that every single person on the team contributed to the success.

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