I’ve been a part of an organization that pursued a moon-shot. For myself and the many people involved, it was some of our careers’ most challenging and best work. Like a championship from long ago, when the situation pops into my mind, I smile. It was good work with great people.

Yet, in our case, no lives were at stake. Livelihoods, yes, but not lives.

In the May/June 2021 issue of Harvard Business Review, the CEO and Chairman of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, shares his thoughts on the experience of “Developing a Vaccine in Record Time.”  In particular, I loved the six lessons learned described by Bourla. They merit consideration by all of us.

I paraphrase:

  1. Success is a team effort.
  2. It can pay to put purpose first.
  3. Moon-shot challenges that align with the right purpose are galvanizing.
  4. When you set a huge goal, you must encourage out-of-the-box thinking required to achieve it.
  5. Free the creators (scientists) from financial concerns and excessive bureaucracy.
  6. Embrace (unconventional) cooperation

These are fabulous, concise, and powerful insights. They are a blueprint for leading at scale and with purpose in this era. Yet, there are no epiphanies here. Many would generate a similar list if asked to define the critical success factors for any significant or strategic initiative.

When was the last time you saw the culture inherent in Bourla’s Six Lessons emerge in your organization?

For many, the answer is “Never.”

How much money do we spend on leadership development, especially for executives?

Shareholders should demand their money back.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Thanks, Pfizer Team, and Albert Bourla. As a beneficiary of your work, I’m grateful. The world is grateful. For everyone else, it’s past time to start leading as if lives and livelihoods depend upon it.

Art's Signature