A Leadership Journey: Learning How Success Differs from Significance

Thursday, October 16, 2014
Dr. Larry Corey

Dr. Larry Corey

President & Director Emeritus
Fred Hutchinson


CEOtoCEO had the privilege of having Dr. Larry Corey, President and Director Emeritus of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center speak at our breakfast this past week.

Not only was Dr. Corey entertaining, but his message reached everyone in the room and got us all thinking as he shared his own personal journey.

The main message he had for us was to absorb and think about was something everyone could relate to; how you move from the world of "success" to the world of "significance." They usually aren't the same.

As the youngest full professor at the University of Washington, his career started out fast and furious. He was a researcher, someone who came up with great discoveries, and someone his fellow colleagues looked up to throughout his career. Then something happened. He left research and went to the "dark side" as his colleagues would call it, the business side of running Fred Hutch.

Leaving research for administration and management was the one thing researchers don't understand very well. Research is the pinnacle of what they were trained for in life, and they love it.

Larry gave us a great example where he told us that if a researcher was given a $1M and told he could bank it, spend it, or invest it into their lab, virtually every single one would invest it in their lab. That's the level of passion and dedication these people have for what they do every day. As someone who has had family members die of cancer, I am really happy to hear that answer as they continue to work on ways to eliminate it.

Larry's job changed from writing papers on Herpes and HIV to promoting "the Hutch" as their CEO. He had to find ways to "commercialize" it in order to get the funding they needed beyond the philanthropic donations they receive. He had to generate awareness and build funding mechanisms to grow. He had to become a true CEO and manage, build, and promote a $400M operation. No easy task for someone spending his life in research.

He challenged all of us that lead businesses that we need to have "Self-reflection and Self-evaluation" as a CEO or leader. This is a critical component to not being just successful, but being significant. He needed to redefine himself so he could lead The Hutch. So he built a system and an operation that touched many people's lives in ways that allowed them to continue to not only survive but grow.

As they worked to build tremendous IP (intellectual property) through their discoveries and spinning off companies other big organizations wanted to buy, they became a base for opportunities. He wishes they could keep more of these companies inside their own organization and allow them to grow and prosper as well, but that's another story.

Today, he has successfully moved from the research ranks and into the leadership ranks to bring incredible significance to the work of everyone at The Hutch.

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