Decades of corporate leadership helped him address the challenges that 2020 wrought.
The past year presented extraordinary leadership challenges for CEOs. First came the COVID-19 pandemic, then social unrest following the killing of George Floyd, and finally a contentious election that tore at the political connective tissue of the nation.
The year may have been unique, but Stryker CEO Kevin Lobo said his strategies at the orthopedics giant drew upon upon basic tenets of leadership that he learned leading businesses in first the chemical and then medical device industries. He joined medtech in 2003 when he took a senior post at Johnson & Johnson.
“All crises have similarities,” Lobo told Medical Design & Outsourcing. “Obviously the magnitude of this is unprecedented. I’ve never been through anything like this, but I’d been through other crises before.”
Lobo’s leadership skills appear to have paid off for the world’s largest orthopedic device company, which performed better than other top competitors amid the pandemic. Stryker’s revenue was down –6.2% year-over-year, to more than $10 billion for the first nine months of 2020 as COVID-19 caused a curtailment in elective procedures. But sales during the same period were down –7.5% for Smith+Nephew, –15.1% for Johnson & Johnson’s ortho business, and –15.7% for Zimmer Biomet.
Stryker even closed a major M&A deal — its $4.7 billion purchase of Wright Medical which Lobo says “helps us toward our goal of achieving category leadership in all areas of our business.
“We’re excited about bringing Wright Medical’s people, products and pipeline into Stryker,” Lobo stated. “With a longer sign-to-close period, we had more time to develop our integration plans and, shortly after closing, announced specialized business structures that will help us remain close to the customer and set us up for success in 2021 and beyond.”
In an interview, Lobo described how he managed as the world unraveled. He also discussed his unique position as chair of AdvaMed, medtech’s largest industry organization, as the sector fell into the crosshairs of President Trump and other politicians.
Here are the past learnings Lobo applied to leading in 2020.