Although, by nature, leadership is not confined to a rigid checklist of qualities, there are fundamental traits that leaders must possess to lead effectively. Besides being honest, understanding, communicative, and adaptive, modesty and honesty is the cornerstone of effective leadership. Basically, leadership is the culmination of individual styles where fostering certain foundational qualities is important for success. However, modesty and humility create an atmosphere of respect and collaboration–making them seem approachable and grounded.
Such is the leadership philosophy of Alexander Alonso, who defines it as careful leadership or ‘servant leadership’. He actively surrounds himself with individuals from whom he can gain valuable insights and learning experiences and believes in working on himself constantly to make himself better every day.
Originally from Tenerife, Canary Islands, Alexander completed his studies in Belgium and subsequently started working in the pharma industry in Organon. There, he worked with a company specializing in gynecology and psychiatric pharmaceutical solutions, garnering seven years of experience across various roles, such as sales representative, product manager, marketing manager, field sales manager, and sales manager. Later, he transitioned to BD as a sales manager.
Over his 17-year journey with BD Benelux, Alexander seized several opportunities to switch roles. For the past five years, he has been General Manager, overseeing operations in several countries. As the General Manager of BD Benelux, Alexander invests a significant amount of his time in growing the company and piloting it to new heights of greatness.
World’s Largest Medical Technologist
BD Benelux is one of the world’s largest medical technology companies, with a global presence across more than 190 countries and operated by over 77,000 associates in a diverse environment. The company, notably, invests 1+ bn dollars annually in research and development. In Alexander’s region, the Benelux, BD encompasses around 1200 associates, succeeding within a remarkably diverse environment that encompasses nearly 60 different nationalities. At the company’s core, gender diversity is well-balanced, and an impressive one-third of the workforce is under 30, demonstrating a rich and varied backdrop for their operations.
As the General Manager, Alexander leads three countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. He primarily focuses on strengthening the organizational foundation to ensure the businesses thrive via different measures. These include gaining in-depth market insights, expanding networks, facilitating product implementation, and attracting, engaging, and nurturing top-tier talent. Moreover, he ensures BD Benelux’s promotion internally and externally, spearheading as the company’s public face and advocate, all while staying attuned to the unique local needs and regulations.
Cultivating a Culture-focused Environment
In addition to his day-to-day roles and responsibilities, Alexander focuses on cultivating a workplace culture centered around talent management, diversity, inclusion, and equality. He takes great pride in the positive outcomes of these efforts, particularly in talent management, where he brings out the best in people. Additionally, he engages and motivates team members on their personal growth journeys in various manners, including implementing motivational programs.
Essentially, he strongly emphasizes coaching and mentoring while working on thorough talent planning to ensure the organization is well-prepared with successors for critical roles. This strategy has proven effective as a substantial percentage of roles are now filled internally.
In terms of diversity, equality, and inclusion, he primarily focuses on three key areas at BD Benelux: gender leadership, attracting the next generation of managers, and creating an optimal work environment. While this focus has yielded positive results, significantly contributing to the company’s diversity and inclusivity agenda, Alexander takes immense pride in its success.
Besides being proud of these accomplishments and recognizing the far-reaching impact of the company’s solutions, Alexander asserts BD Benelux’s broad accessibility, particularly during critical periods such as the COVID-19 pandemic when PCR, antigen, and self-testing solutions were urgently needed.
The Trifecta of Sponsorship, Coaching and Leadership
According to Alexander, mentorship is a distinct role that should not be confused with sponsorship or coaching. He adds that a Sponsor’s primary responsibility is to elevate talent, unlock their full potential, and advocate for their advancement, ensuring they have the necessary support and networking opportunities to excel and take on new roles.
Sponsorship also involves sharing passion, engaging in dialogues to overcome obstacles, and creating an environment where individuals can thrive. “As a Sponsor, you play an important role in doing so, and at the end, the greatness of it is that you see talent growing, taking new roles and this is the incentive of it,” says Alexander. He also perceives his role as a Sponsor as a way to contribute to the growth and success of others, much as he has experienced throughout his career with BD.
Strengthening Roots for a Robust Foundation
In Alexander’s opinion, a company’s foundation is like a tree’s roots, and the tree is as strong as the roots are. He considers people as the roots and tends to invest in them significantly. His approach involves open dialogues to address challenges and seek solutions collaboratively. He values diverse perspectives and actively engages with individuals at all company levels, even seeking input from newer generations.
Alexander looks beyond his own company, drawing inspiration from other organizations and countries to continuously improve practices and align them with the company’s culture. He prioritizes being accessible to his team, preceding a personal office to facilitate direct interactions, conversations, and curiosity-driven questions that lead to meaningful improvements.
Aligning Innovation with Organizational Vision
At the core of every organization, innovation is imperative for success and constant growth. While Alexander’s role at BD Benelux doesn’t encompass direct accountability for developing innovations, his lies in comprehending market and customer needs through dialogue to identify healthcare opportunities and challenges, which he then shares within the company.
He believes this information can guide decision-makers in selecting innovations or potential acquisitions. Once innovations are available, his responsibility is to ensure the best possible market access and stability in the countries he oversees.
Moreover, Alexander takes on the role of the company’s ambassador in the Benelux region. It is his duty to effectively communicate the long-term vision and strategy of the organization, detailing the approach to success over the short and long term. This combination of responsibilities underscores the importance of aligning the company’s vision with its practical execution, a key component of their discussion of its vision.
Analyzing Transformations and Tech Advancements
Alexander recognizes the profound transformations in healthcare driven by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes demand a robust focus on prevention, innovation for increased efficiency, overcoming challenges like escalating costs in raw materials, supply chain, and personnel, and the pressing issue of staff shortages. It’s a shifting landscape, marked by greater investments in preventive measures and the adoption of new technologies to facilitate communication.
Technological advancements have become instrumental in addressing these healthcare challenges. AI, though still in its nascent stages, holds significant promise. Companies, including BD, view AI as a tool that can augment existing and new technologies, enhancing efficiency, safety, and agility. However, AI also presents security, GDPR compliance, and data privacy challenges, necessitating cautious and responsible adoption.
While AI offers immense potential, its full-scale implementation requires careful consideration of these complexities. BD is already integrating AI into its operations, exploring how this technology can optimize safety, effectiveness, and efficiency within its solutions. As healthcare continues to evolve, AI is poised to play an increasingly vital role in shaping BD’s future expansion plans and advancing global healthcare.
In this dynamic landscape, BD remains committed to adapting solutions and making a positive impact, bridging the gap between the present challenges and the future possibilities offered by AI and other emerging technologies.
A Radiant Vision for the Future
Being at the forefront of the company, Alexander envisions a brighter future for BD Benelux. His vision for BD revolves around becoming the healthcare customer’s preferred and deeply trusted partner, offering solutions that prioritize healthcare workers, patient safety, and operational efficiency within the continuum of care. This vision is further determined by a commitment to innovation and value-based solutions, firmly establishing a long-term outlook.
Alexander and his team have devised a strategic framework to transform this vision into action. At its core lies an unwavering dedication to sustainable healthcare, which is embodied through four key pillars:
- The first pillar centers on personalized care and support throughout the patient journey. BD focuses on developing signature programs to provide end-to-end solutions. It offers three signature programs. The first one is patient safety, which encompasses initiatives to prevent medication and diagnostic errors and aid healthcare practitioners in infection prevention. The second signature program targets healthcare workers, addressing the pressing issue of staff shortages that continue to challenge the healthcare industry. In the third program, BD has developed various solutions and technologies designed to enhance efficiency and standardization, ultimately mitigating the impact of staffing shortages.
- Innovation for the future constitutes the second pillar, encompassing a proactive approach to understanding healthcare’s evolving challenges and technological requirements. BD engages in a continuous dialogue to identify and invest in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), integrating these advancements into their solutions to enhance diagnosis and support various healthcare aspects.
- The third pillar, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), underscores BD’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Their clear ESG agenda spans the entire production process, from alternative energy sources to product delivery. BD’s products are designed to meet customer needs and contribute positively to environmental and social objectives. This includes a strong focus on social responsibility, diversity, and inclusion, aligning with their previously mentioned discussions.
- Lastly, the fourth pillar revolves around being an experienced partner. With over 125 years of healthcare experience and a global workforce of more than 77,000 associates spanning 190 countries, BD Benelux possesses expertise and knowledge. This deep reservoir of experience is harnessed to support and impact healthcare meaningfully and constructively effectively.
Essentially, Alexander’s comprehensive strategy thus embraces the multidimensional aspects of healthcare, from patient safety and workforce optimization to sustainability and innovation. It also reflects BD’s commitment to providing cutting-edge solutions and actively shaping the future of healthcare in alignment with its long-term vision.
Leadership Growth and Development: A Continuous Process
Recognizing the imperative to enhance skills continually and remain attuned to the ever-evolving business landscape, Alexander emphasizes that leadership growth and development are continuous processes.
Alexander believes that most of his leadership growth happens while he’s working. His job has changed significantly in the past five years, especially because of two major crises and big changes in BD Benelux, the company he works for. This constantly changing environment forces him to keep learning and growing. He learns about 60% of what he needs to know while doing his job.
The other 20% of his growth comes from special projects and assignments. BD allows him and others to work on different tasks that help them learn and become better leaders. Sometimes, he leads these projects, giving him even more experience.
He also gets better at his job through coaching and training. BD has a training program called BD University, where people at different levels can learn and improve at their jobs. They have presentations and training sessions there. Alexander is curious and likes to learn, so he sometimes goes to training outside the company and talks to leaders in different fields. This way, he learns from others and uses their ideas to help him become a better leader.
BD Benelux is always changing and facing challenges because the healthcare industry is also changing. This means leaders like Alexander have to keep changing and learning, too. The company encourages its leaders to always look for ways to improve and learn to improve their jobs.
“Don’t wait till you are ready to do the job; make sure you’re ready to take it and jump.”