Eli Lilly's Lechleiter: He's Able To Handle Himself, By Himself

Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly

Even though I'm back on the East Coast today I wanted to share what I think is an interesting anecdote from my time Monday at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference which is wrapping up in San Francisco.

Over the years I've interviewed CEOs of big caps, mid caps, small caps and micro caps. And almost always the CEO is accompanied by at least one handler--either an executive assistant or a PR person. Oftentimes, there's an entourage. And the number of people in the posse is not necessarily proportionate to the size of the company.

At JPM Monday, we interviewed more than half-a-dozen CEOs or top-level execs. One of them was the President, COO and CEO-designate, John Lechleiter, of Eli Lilly . The big pharma company has the biggest market cap of the firms we highlighted that day. So, I expected him to be surrounded by his people.

But much to my surprise, Lechleiter showed up solo. No assistant, no staff, no people, no posse. How refreshing! When I asked him before we went on camera, "Where's your entourage?" he jokingly replied, "Cost cuts." I had interviewed him a few times before, but it was always via satellite.

We'd never met in person, so this was our first face-to-face interview. Lechleiter managed on his own just fine. I understand why it can be important to have extra help around just in case something comes up when trying to pull off a live interview. There could be a technical glitch, a last-minute request to get information for an answer to an anticipated question, someone to run and get a bottled water.

But I'm often perplexed by the amount of people assigned to execs who clearly--based on the position they're in--are perfectly capable of handling themselves in these situations.

You know what they say about first impressions. Mr. Lechleiter made a big one in my book.

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