A Comedy Makes Pfizer’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Feel Alone
Tears streamed down Sally Susman’s face while she watched The Intern on the return flight from business in Europe. It was Spring, 2016. She felt alone.
Robert De Niro becomes Ann Hathaway’s best friend in the movie. He’s a seventy-year-old intern. She’s an ambitious young leader. Sally Susma thought, “I want a mature presence, a true confidant, an office friend.” She writes about it – along with much more – in her new book, Breaking Through.
Susman’s story made me cry.
Sally got off the plane determined to contact Paul Critchlow, former Vice Chairman at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, to ask him to be her summer intern. Paul shares his experience here.
We have associates, colleagues, neighbors, but 20% of Americans have no one to talk to. Gen Z is the loneliest generation (people born between 1997 and 2012).
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future,” Anonymous.
3 Solutions for feeling alone in leadership:
- Realize Wonder Woman, Superman, and the Lone Ranger are fictional characters. You have frailties. You need others.
- Seek a mentor or coach. You need someone in your life who doesn’t have a dog in the fight.
- Build relationships intentionally. It’s messy. It takes time. You are more likely to flourish.
“Positive relationships keep us happier, healthier, and help us live longer.” Harvard Gazette
5 questions to explore your relationships:
- Who affirms and strengthens your sense of self?
- Who will you call in the moment of personal crisis?
- Who encourages you to go for it? Try new things? Pursue your goals?
- Who can you call when you feel low, furious, or ecstatic (and you’ll speak honestly with them)?
- Who brings a smile to your face? Makes you laugh?
You never flourish alone. People count on you. Who do you count on?
How might leaders build supportive relationships?
Connect with Sally on LinkedIn.
Purchase Breaking Through here.
Sally Susman in her own words:
I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends
7 Relationship Building Rules for Results-Driven Leaders
In teaching my high school students on this idea, we talk about social capital. Those persons in your circle on whom you can rely and who rely on you. If that circle is too small or non-existent, you are poor indeed. Much of true wealth comes via relationships.
I’m a big believer in co-life-ers — the folks we go through life with. I’ve been blessed with great manager/coaches, great leaders, and true friends. It takes some effort and navigating an occasional point of tension, but these voices are so valuable.
I love that movie! Great post, will have to watch the video (which I almost never do) and buy the book.
You should have at least one person for each of the five questions, and they should be different people so you have at least five people in your social circle. And have different people for different situations. I go to different people for encouragement because someone who knows what I can do at the gym may not know what I can do at work.
Dan – how about a follow up interview with Paul Critchlow? I’ll bet he has some great stories from his time at Pfizer…
Dan, what an absolute delight listening to your interview with Sally Susman. I look forward to reading her book. The name of her book is interesting in light of the “Breaking Through” Pfizer made with their mRNA technology. It may be in her book, but it would be interesting to hear how, in her role, she is addressing recently released internal Pfizer correspondence revealing what appears to be less than ethical treatment of mRNA research results, which may lead to serious global lawsuits against the company. I would imagine she is playing a significant role regarding this issue an if she is not, she should be.
I am retired now, but unbeknownst to you, I often turned to you and your Leadership Freak wisdom for that “older, wiser intern” role. BTW, thanks again for providing your insights to my class over the years.
“Realize Wonder Woman, Superman, and the Lone Ranger are fictional characters. You have frailties. You need others.”
Superman and Wonder Woman had the Justice Leage, the lone Ranger had Tonto (and I guess ‘Silver’)
Not even our fictional hero’s go it alone.