Military and Police

What Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, Teaches About the Value of Military Service to Business Success.

Alex Gorsky has been the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Johnson & Johnson for several years.  Gorsky has had a rapid and extremely successful rise through Johnson & Johnson (J&J) as well as other medical and pharmaceutical companies.  Importantly, Gorsky is a former US Army Captain, a US Army Ranger School graduate, and Airborne qualified.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“Johnson & Johnson picked company veteran Alex Gorsky as its next chief executive, giving him the reins to a health-products giant that makes some of the world’s most well-regarded medicines but whose reputation has been battered by quality problems at such iconic brands as Tylenol.   The 51-year-old Mr. Gorsky will take the helm of J&J this April as it struggles to overcome the quality problems that have cost it more than $1 billion in lost sales and forced the shutdown of a production plant. . . Mr. Gorsky is a former U.S. Army Ranger who began his J&J career as a pharmaceutical sales representative in 1988 and has held leadership positions in J&J’s pharmaceuticals and medical-device businesses.”

In a series of interviews in other publications, Alex Gorsky credits the values, mentoring, and mission focus of the US Army as being critical to his career success as well as instrumental in leading successful business teams.  Here are a few of the outstanding business quotes where Alex Gorsky describes the full value he gained from applying his military skills to business.

  • Gorsky Lesson #1: Mission Focus & a Can Do Military Culture: “[T]he military’s CAN-DO culture has helped him in business.  ‘There’s a general attitude in the military of trying to do everything possible to accomplish the mission.  We have the same kind of commitment to improving patients’ lives.  We face daunting challenges every day, and it’s important to do our best to come up with solutions.”
  • Gorsky Lesson #2: Mentoring & Coaching Essential to Building Talent.  “David (a J&J employee) says Gorsky continued to mentor him even after he left J&J for Novartis, responding ‘almost instantly’ to emails and calls no matter where in the world he might be.  “You have to be involved, and that means being approachable, making yourself available, and providing candid, specific feedback.”
  • Gorsky Lesson #3: Values and Purpose Are What Build Success for an Organization.  “People want to feel like they’re working for a higher purpose, for something enduring.  Johnson & Johnson’s Gorsky argues that focusing on “people and values” is a key strategy to sustainable success. Using his employer as an illustration, Gorsky mentions J&J’s decades-old “credo,” which speaks to the firm’s responsibility toward customers, employees, communities and, lastly, shareholders. The credo provides grounding for employees, he says, particularly important “at a time when everything seems to be changing.” 

Alex Gorsky proves daily that military experience and business experience are a great combination for a successful business and a successful career.

Chad Storlie

Chad Storlie is an OpsLens Contributor and retired Lieutenant Colonel with 20-plus years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. Chad is author of two books: "Combat Leader to Corporate Leader" and "Battlefield to Business Success." Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @Combattocorp.

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