8 Things You Might Not Know About Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky
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He is a U.S. military veteran and avid supporter of our armed forces.
Alex Gorsky was nominated and accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating in 1982, he served as a U.S. Army Captain, finishing his military career with the rank of captain. “It was challenging and rewarding at the same time,” he said. "I learned a lot about leadership, service and the important role the academy has in shaping future leaders for our country.”
Today, Gorsky serves as a mentor for military veterans transitioning to civilian life through the Travis Manion Foundation and programs like the #BeThere campaign, a partnership between Johnson & Johnson and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) dedicated to supporting active and retired service members in need of mental health support and resources. He believes it’s imperative that veterans and their families have this access, and that we continue to engage the public in this important conversation.
Gorsky takes a “boots on the ground” approach to leadership.
Healthcare is the biggest challenge facing society today. And Johnson & Johnson works tirelessly to meet that challenge head-on, with Gorsky's leadership embodying that commitment. Today, Johnson & Johnson is among the largest corporate donors to global public health issues.
As Johnson & Johnson’s global brand ambassador, Gorsky leads by example: In April 2014, he joined Bill Gates at the Gates Foundation Neglected Tropical Diseases forum in Paris. In August of that same year, Gorsky and Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels traveled to South Africa and met with patients being treated for multidrug-resistant TB.
In 2015, Gorsky traveled to China with the Operation Smile founders to meet with families whose children were having surgeries to repair a cleft lip; shortly after, Gorsky announced a $25 million enhanced partnership with Operation Smile.
He is only the seventh Chairman and CEO to serve at Johnson & Johnson in its 133-year history.
In 2012, Gorsky was named Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson to become our ninth leader and only the seventh to hold this title.
“It was an incredibly humbling and proud moment for me with a middle-class upbringing from the Midwest. In a full circle kind of way, my parents’ and family's influence, my military service and my development at the company had prepared me for this significant moment, to lead a global workforce focused on creating better health outcomes for people and communities around the world,” he said.
He believes we have a responsibility to transform healthcare through innovation.
As the world’s most broadly based global healthcare business, Johnson & Johnson has, for more than a century, pioneered world-changing solutions—always putting patients first, and driving transformational healthcare through innovation.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Gorsky stressed that the most important thing Johnson & Johnson can do as a company is to continue to embrace innovation and advance the health and well-being of all the patients and families we serve.
Johnson & Johnson does this through continuous forward-focused investments in research and development, and by reinventing itself every single day. Gorsky believes Johnson & Johnson must always act like a “133-year-old startup,” relentlessly searching for new ideas, technologies and science that can lead to better patient care and outcomes.
Gorsky is an advocate for work/life balance, and an example for Johnson & Johnson employees.
Gorsky believes that the key to a thriving 21st-century workforce is to think about health and wellness holistically. Helping employees stay energized and ready to lead fuller, more productive lives is one of his greatest points of pride as a leader.
He stresses the importance of work/life balance for all employees to maintain productivity and engagement, but also for their own personal well-being. In a commencement address at Thomas Jefferson University, he urged graduates to remember to care for themselves. Gorsky also tries to set an example for employees by setting aside time for his own health every day.
As a result of Gorsky's leadership, Johnson & Johnson is on track to meet its 2020 goal of engaging 135,000-plus employees toward a personal best in health and well-being.
He believes wholeheartedly in workplace equality and diversity.
In an interview with the Wharton School about his leadership style, Gorsky spoke about the importance of creating an open forum for debate.
“I’ve always found that encouraging a diversity of opinion by different members, sometimes even challenging people to come in and argue the opposite of the direction that we’re heading in, really makes sure that you have thought through the implications,” he said.
Under Gorsky's leadership, Johnson & Johnson took the #1 spot on the 2018 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. While accepting the award on behalf of Johnson & Johnson, Gorsky stressed that prioritizing diversity and inclusion is critical to our future and one of Johnson & Johnson’s most essential global business imperatives.
Gorsky is an active sponsor of the Johnson & Johnson Women’s Leadership & Inclusion initiative, an employee resource group that supports women’s career development. Gorsky also supported upgrading the company’s global parental leave policy, which now provides new parents—maternal, paternal and adoptive—the opportunity to take a minimum of eight additional weeks of paid leave during the first year of a child’s birth or adoption.
Gorsky attributes his success to his upbringing and the support of his family.
“My parents and my five siblings were my first and among the best mentors anyone could wish for. They told me the things that really mattered and delivered many 'tough love' messages. As they say, the greatest lessons in life are often learned at home,” Gorsky said in a 2009 speech for the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association.
Today, he frequently says: “We are pleased, but never satisfied.” This attitude of continuous improvement is something he learned early in life. “Back in Freemont, Michigan, there were teachers like Ann Werner, who taught me not only how to diagram a sentence, but also how to encourage and inspire at the same time. I still remember getting back papers and, even with a good grade, there would be plenty of red so the next one would be even better,” he said.
Gorsky also comes from a family of nurses. His wife, Pat, and sister Therese are lifelong nurses, and his niece Alexandra is now entering a career in the field, which makes the company’s foundational responsibility to doctors and nurses—the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future celebrated its 15-year anniversary in 2017—all the more personal for him.
Gorsky will do almost anything for a good cause.
In the summer of 2014, at the height of the Ice Bucket Challenge, Gorsky dumped a bucket of ice water over his head to raise awareness for ALS—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—and pledged a donation to the ALS Association on behalf of Johnson & Johnson employees around the globe. The Ice Bucket Challenge went on to raise over $115 million for ALS research and patient care.
In 2015, in Johnson & Johnson’s third consecutive year as the lead sponsor of the TriRock Philadelphia Triathlon, Gorsky participated on a relay team and gave an inspiring kickoff speech to the Johnson & Johnson team of more than 750 employees.
That same year, Johnson & Johnson participants also raised more than $500,000 for cancer research and treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), adding up to more than $1 million raised.
*This article has been updated since its original publication.