Ann-Marie Hosang-Archer, MD Eli Lilly SA

As we sat together at the Lilly offices in Bryanston, I wondered to myself:  “What has made this woman stand out amongst her peers?  What has she done or who is she that she is where she is today?”

The answers to these questions becomes apparent as one takes a step back and looks at the company, Eli Lilly, and Ann-Marie Hosang-Archer herself, looking for connection points and golden threads.

Upon arriving at their offices, we were ushered into a foyer where walls were lined with images and accolades of past excellence’s and accomplishments.  In addition to this, a bookcase caught my eye, in which I found volumes dedicated to achieving top performance and challenging one to be one’s highest and best self. 

Eli Lilly has been in business for more than 135 years, founded by a man frustrated by the poorly prepared and often ineffective medicines of his day.  He was determined to manufacture pharmaceutical products of the highest possible quality, medicines that physicians believed in and that were based on the best science of the day.

During a recent discussion with Themba Baloyi, a top executive from the Discovery group, he mentioned how the best businesses – the ones that last – are built from a deep desire to do good and fill a social need.  Eli Lilly stands as a global beacon of this principle.

Hosang-Archer is a woman whose leadership career has been formed on the bedrock of values established while she was still young.  She shared the story about how she grew up in her grandparents’ home who were very hard workers.  “My grandfather worked very hard.  He woke up very early every morning to take care of the farm and then go on to his day job, only to return in the evening and work on the farm.  We hardly ever saw him.  The neighbours used to moan that he didn’t come down to the bar, he didn’t socialize with them.” 

“He didn’t care, because he was doing what he thought was right, he was being responsible to his family and, being a religious man, he didn’t feel he needed to socialize.  And he didn’t care what people had to say about that, because that is what he felt was right.”

She went on to share:  “There is a saying from one of my favourite books that goes: ‘The softest pillow is the one with a clear conscience’, and I learnt a lot of that from my grandfather.”

“As I look back to that time growing up, I can safely say that when my grandfather went to sleep at night, he rested very well.”

 “Every time that I have had to make a decision through the years, when I go back to doing the right thing, it makes it so much easier.  It may be a tough decision, but it is a lot easier because you’re doing it for the right reasons.”

It is because of these golden thread connections that I believe Hosang-Archer has been successful as she has served Lilly. In her own words, she says that she has been with Lilly for so long because their values and her values “are a direct match.”

Hosang-Archer shared how everywhere she has worked – Latin America, Brazil, Canada, and now Southern Africa – she can feel Lilly’s values of Respect, Integrity, and Excellence.

As a result we can extract a few telling questions that will assist each one of us with our own movement forward:  “What do I really believe?”  “What are my real values?”  And:  “Does who I am connect with the company or organisation I work for?”

If we were to analyze any organisation and their leaders, we would most likely find that those that have stayed with their company longest believe in what it stands for, and share its values and ambitions.

Hosang-Archer’s leadership philosophy echoes that of another leader very highly regarded by all here at Leadership Platform – Mark Cutifani, CEO of AngloGold Ashanti.  Without hesitation, she said that “leadership is about people and people development”, a view also held by Cutifani.

In just a few points she describes how she successfully moves and develops her people:

·         People must know that you are genuine

·         Admit mistakes

·         Be honest

·         And allow for business ownership mindset

This final point led us into an interesting discussion around development.  Hosang-Archer feels strongly that the only way to develop people is if you, the leader, let go of many of the management functions you often feel the need to hold on to.  Key to this being successful is to then lead (not manage) these people by asking the correct strategic questions and coming to decisions around important matters together. 

She used an analogy of a boat and asked the question:  “Where are you on the boat?”  Her answer to her own question was that sometimes she is in various places, but clearly cannot be in all places at the same time.  Sometimes she needs to be on the bridge directing; sometimes down in the engine room making sure things are running as they should.  But if she is not on the bridge she must trust someone enough, or in other words, she must trust the development of that person enough, to allow them to direct or see to matters she is unable to.

It is not a matter of trial and error though

Hosang-Archer stresses the need to identify what it is the team or organisation is looking for in an individual and then to allow them the “opportunities to use and develop those competencies”.  This also allows for the sometimes difficult conversations of promotional/leadership readiness to be easier – “…when you get to the point where this person wants to move into a higher position but they are not ready, you can clearly say we tried XYZ that were supposed to assist you to develop in these ways; X and Y worked very well, but we still need to work on Z.”  She stresses that competency measurement and behaviours (not only numbers-driven performance measurement) are essential.

“We need to get people to achieve their fullest potential, regardless of where they end up in the organisation.”

Ann-Marie Hosang-Archer has an interesting time ahead of her as she steers Eli Lilly (SA) through a difficult but interesting period in South Africa and globally. 

And similar to those with whom she associates at Eli Lilly, we see a leader whose future is bright due to a foundation of solid values that guide her as she does what she feels to be right.

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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Founder of Future CEOs™ and co-host of the Future CEOs™ show on, Gareth seeks to empower high potential young executives and ambitious entrepreneurs as they push for CEO status.

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