November 9, 2015

It Has to be Personal: My Dinner with Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos

Last Monday I had dinner with Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO of Theranos (@eholmes2003). And while there were a few hundred other people dining with us (she was speaking at the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit #MIS2015), Elizabeth’s style and approach made it feel like an intimate occasion.

Being a 31-year- old CEO with an incredibly well-known global profile and a net worth of more than $4 Billion dollars, Elizabeth Holmes could easily be all ego and airs. Instead, she presents herself as sincere, approachable, and fallible.

Dr. Toby Cosgrove’s, CEO of Cleveland Clinic, conversation with Elizabeth included some tough questions about the firestorm she and her $10B privately-held consumer healthcare technology company currently are facing in the media.

For me, and for many others in the room, however, the most striking part of the discussion was not about Theranos but about Elizabeth Holmes – the entrepreneur, the CEO and the leader, who for the first time in her 12-year rocket ship rise to the top is being truly tested.

When asked what advice she would give to entrepreneurs just starting out, Elizabeth said, “It has to be personal.” Your mission and vision for a new company (or an old one) needs to come from a place of passion, and passion is always personal.  What do you care about? What gives you the energy to go do something great?

"I care so much about why we do what we do," Elizabeth said. Her “why” came from experiences with ill loved ones that drove a belief that access to critical health data is a fundamental right. What is your “why?” Do you know? Is it personal?

“We believe…” said Elizabeth, followed several times by statements about patients and consumers and kids. These simple statements, fueled by her passion for the work done by Theranos, were both authentic and inspiring.

At a moment in time when she and Theranos are constantly under fire in the press, Elizabeth Holmes acknowledged that really, really tough times show you what you and your team are made of and said, “I have been so inspired by our people.”  As a young leader who left Stanford with a clear vision of why she wanted to build Theranos, who is driven by a personal commitment to making a difference  in healthcare for all people, and who supports that mission with clear beliefs on what the change should be – I think it safe to say, Elizabeth, that your people are inspired too.

Tags: #powerofpersonal, conferences

Author
K.C. McAllister

K.C. does not hold anything back. Not her ideas, not her opinions, not her years of experience, and definitely not her heart. Like TSP itself, K.C.’s honesty, integrity, intelligence, and directness are what draw people in and make them want to work with her.

Grounded in industry and category knowledge, and strategic in her thinking, K.C. can jump in and analyze an idea to help the team calculate its strengths and understand its implications both from a people and life science perspective.

For more than 15 years, K.C. has been partnering with Fortune 500 to start-up healthcare and life science clients to develop, deliver, and evaluate innovative talent strategies. As, EVP, Consulting & Strategy, K.C. is focused on expanding TSP’s Consulting & Assessment practice and leads initiatives to ensure excellence for the firm’s key internal priorities. K.C. holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame.

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