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GlaxiSmithKline Company Leadership and Controlling Essay

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Updated: Mar 14th, 2020


GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) is an international pharmaceutical that was formed in 1904. The organization has its headquarters in London. The corporation produces and supplies medicines, oral healthcare, and nutrition drinks. Over the years of operation, the organization has enjoyed strong leadership from the CEOs’ operating under a predetermined framework and organization structure.

However, each CEO injects a unique leadership strategy that leaves a unique legacy. To understand the role of CEO, his/her leadership strategy and organization design; this essay focuses on the former GlaxoSmithKline CEO Sir Richard Sykes. GlaxoSmithKline appointed Sir Richard Sykes as the CEO in 1995 after being in the organization since 1972 in various capacities.


During the leadership of Sir Richard Sykes, GlaxoSmithKline achieved a monumental milestone by becoming the second largest healthcare producer in the world. Although this achievement depended on many factors such as sound capital outlay, employment of modern technology, and continuous research, Sir Richard Sykes’ leadership prowess and character had a significant bearing.

He led Glaxo into the acquisition of Wellcome in 1995 to form Glaxo Wellcome. Later, he engineered the merger between Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham to form GlaxoSmithKline plc in 2002 (Santa, 2011). His impeccable leadership qualities offered peculiar leadership that stimulated other employees to increase their efforts.

During his reign, Sir Richard Sykes exercised both transformational leadership and transactional leadership. His simple personality helped him to interact freely with other employees in the course of their operations. With the transformational leadership approach, Sykes was able to revolutionize organization performances by replacing redundant approaches.

On the other hand, he ensured that each employee was responsible and understood his role in the organization. To entrench long term thinking and action towards realizing the organization’s long-term goals is not an easy task but determination drove him to do it perfectly. His awareness of what he wanted to achieve places him as one of the greatest transformational leaders of his generation.

His focus was on end rather than concentrating on the means to make it (Boje, 2000). In other words, Sir Richard Sykes was visionary, and he aligned short-term goals about the long-term goals (Vision). His transactional leadership was evident through his pursuit of strategic partnerships, acquisitions, and mergers. The desire to leave a legacy and a strong organization stimulated to engage in several negotiations.

Sykes had a strong will power to persuade and influence other people to comply with his proposal. Eventually, his determination paid off when he led to the acquisition of Welcome and later the merger with SmithKline Beecham. With such a high level of influence, he still managed to retain a low profile to establish a good rapport with subordinate officers; in fact, he was born to serve.

According to him, successful leadership is a combination of skills and personality to win employee respect, attention, and royalty (Sykes, 2011). Although he was the overall organization leader, Sir Richard Sykes instilled trust in his employees by embracing delegation leadership strategy.

He organized and mobilized human resources to perform by issuing performance contracts. To him, each element of human resource had a role to play in achieving the overall objectives. Therefore, individual performance was vital in the realization of global goals.


Often, employees in organizations suffer from lack of motivation and boredom resulting in routine duties. With this kind of staff, no single organization stands a chance to witness the fruition of its goals (Storey, 2004). According to Sykes (2011), leaders have the sole responsibility of motivating people to perform towards the realization of a common goal.

Sykes managed to retain a motivated staff by always inspiring them to achieve and reward their efforts regularly. He did this by offering both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation instigators. Extrinsic motivation encompasses external outcomes extended by the organization to the employees in terms of monetary gains, promotions, advancement and job enrichment.

On the other side, Intrinsic reward is incentives which aim at reducing job dissatisfaction and promoting a sense of accomplishment among employees; it also serves to minimize employee fears. Extrinsic motivations are factors such as job security, performance appreciation, job rotation, and prevalence of good working environment free from risks. However, Sykes understood that different things motivate different employees. Thus, he provided a wide array of incentives to accommodate the entire workforce.


Drach-Zahavy (2004) argues that information is power; communication is the focal point of any organization. It is through communication that commands, directions, and strategies pass from one office to the other. Maintaining sound communication within the organization is an essential factor for a successful business organization. Sykes (2011) asserts that employees should be informed without any reservation whatsoever.

Since organization policies, strategies and goals consist of information; the management needs to instill them to the employees. Sykes attempted to internalize organization goals to the employee to stimulate awareness and provoke performance. However, barriers to communication should be eliminated to avoid misrepresentation or misconceptions.

By adopting participatory leadership, managers breach the gap between them and subordinate hence eliminating communication barriers. Prevalence of continuous interaction between the subordinates and senior officers in Glaxo helped to reduce acrimony and misunderstanding. Also, the management was able to detect the emergence of conflicts and seek remedial measure promptly.


Controlling is a management function that entails verifying whether all activities, transactions, and processes confirm the plans adopted, directions issued, and standards established (Drach-Zahavy, 2004). Control, therefore, ensures the organization utilizes resources effectively (Storey, 2004).

Sir Richard Sykes systematically controlled organization performances against predetermined benchmarks. These bench markets comprised of organization goals, targets, and outcomes. Controlling helps an organization to enhance planning and coordination of operations.

Goals formulation

Sir Richard Sykes successful leadership was based on his ability to formulate goals in short-term, medium-term, and long-term. These goals were designed in realistic terms, and specific target indicators were attached to them. His management then restructured these goals into specific targets for each production branch, department, each line manager, and finally to the individual employee.

According to (Searjeant, 2003), the ability to define the span of control not only helped to achieve organizational goals, but it also helped to increase accountability among employees. His leadership control required subordinates to furnish his superiors with his/her performance report(s) such as a status report, performance reports, and project reports. These tools help to control the performance and accountability of each employee in the organization.

Control Measures

Sir Richard Sykes used several control measures to ensure to evaluate organization operations. These measures are job rates, retention rates, earning gains. With these measures, Sir Richard was able to track performances, output and financial standing of the organization. Similarly, since each, department, and branch has a specific target.

He mandated each of these organs to present end-year performance report. To ensure transparency and accountability with the organization, GlaxoSmithKline performance reports, and annual financial reports are readily available to the public for transparency purposes (Searjeant, 2003).

Correction measures

Sir Richard Sykes stamped his authority offering firm direction on what other managers should do. Sykes success story depended on his ability to stand for what he believed in. He never shied away to dictate his authority on what was right. Also, Sykes was proactive, and he believed in taking precaution measures rather than dealing with the consequences.

For him, “prevention is better than cure” is a principle that he held dearly and implemented without wavering. As a proactive leader, Sykes was a cautious person in taking thoughtful and quick decision to address a foreseen problem. His focus remained steadfast on the goals, and he ensured that measures taken are evaluated to avoid exposing the firm to unnecessary yet not inevitable jeopardy (Drach-Zahavy, 2004).

As a proactive leader, Sykes never postponed or acted reluctantly in carrying out urgent actions. During his tenure at GlaxoSmithKline, Sykes embraced and championed a culture of accountability, hard work, and integrity to all employees. The solemn duties bestowed on them to provide healthcare, utmost caution and high level of integrity was compulsory.

By embracing this organizational culture, each employee new and old, adhered to the culture that focuses on high-quality production. Finally, the CEO’s secret weapon to achieve great success in a short time was due to his ability to embrace the latest state-of-the-art and continuous research activities.

Given the large financial base at the organization, the manager employed superior equipment for testing, processing drug, and patient diagnosis. On the other hand, the organization continuously embarks on research to develop new drugs, vaccines, and nutritious drinks (Santa, 2011).

Reference List

Boje, D.M. (2000). Transform Into Super Leaders: Transformational Leadership. Retrieved from http://cbae.nmsu.edu/~dboje/teaching/338/transformational_leadership.htm

Drach-Zahavy, A. (2004). “The Proficiency Trap: How to Balance Enriched Job Designs and the Team’s Need for Support.” Journal of Organizational Behavior (25), 8, pp. 979–997

Santa, M. (2011). Sir Richard Sykes, Former Glaxo Welcome Chairman, CEO and Glaxo Smithkline Chairman, Agrees to Join the Abraxis Bioscience Board of Directors. Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sir-richard-sykes-former-glaxo- wellcome-chairman-ceo-and-glaxosmithkline-chairman-agrees-to-join-the- abraxis-bioscience-board-of-directors-55597787.html

Searjeant, G. (2003). Shareholders Should be inside the Board. Retrieved from http://www.tomorrowscompany.com/downloads/MEDIA%20- %20The%20Times,%20Shareholders%20should%20080203.pdf

Storey, J. (2004). Leadership in Organizations: Current Issues and Key Trends. London: Routledge

Sykes, R. (2011). Leadership and Management: Challenges in the NHS Lessons Learned and Implications for the Future. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/kingsfund/richard-sykes-on-leadership-and- management-challenges-in-the-nhs

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