Tim Hunt, CEO of ARM, on the Best Leadership Advice He’s Given and Received

Timothy Hunt
CEO at Alliance for Regenerative Medicine

The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) is an international advocacy organization championing the benefits of engineered cell therapies and genetic medicines. Tim Hunt joined ARM as CEO in 2022 with more than 20 years of experience in the biotechnology industry. A company-builder with a focus on corporate culture, he has helped early-stage organizations create internal cohesion and advance strategic initiatives. I recently talked with him about leadership and lessons he has learned over his career.

What is the best advice you’ve received?
The best advice I have ever received was powerful because of the advice itself and how it was delivered to me. It was a much-needed nudge to help me learn some lessons on my own. When I started at Cubist Pharmaceuticals, the CEO, my new boss, told me I’d need to complete a 360-degree review and later on, attend a mandatory workshop on growing as a manager. I successfully avoided attending the first two sessions of this workshop, but with the third and final I had nowhere to hide – so I attended. At the session, I was asked to think about the best boss I ever had and why they were so good. I immediately thought of an early manager at Biogen. He was patient with me, he believed in me, he was optimistic, he gave me good advice, and he helped me grow, learn, and develop. I was then asked which of those characteristics I demonstrated with my team. I realized I wasn’t doing most of those things—at least not well. I immediately felt like a horrible boss.

What did you learn from that experience?
I learned that it’s important for all of us to take a really honest, hard look in the mirror and embrace the areas where we truly need to improve. Often people will hide behind hard skills, saying, “I need to improve this technical skill,” and stop there. But in reality “the soft stuff is the hard stuff” to work on. Reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses and getting feedback and help from others on what you need to develop is critical if you want to grow in leadership and build effective teams. It’s also incredibly helpful to be open and honest about your shortcomings and where you need to improve, because it creates a positive culture around development and personal growth.

What is something most leaders struggle with that people don’t talk about enough?
Proper delegation. It’s a tricky balance for all of us. Often people will micromanage, or they’ll swing to the other end of the spectrum and abdicate their responsibilities, throwing issues over the fence to someone else without proper oversight.

Do you have any insight into how to delegate more effectively?
How much you delegate is going to depend on the person, the situation, and your other priorities—it’s always changing. Sometimes we have to get closer to the details because something is really important. The trick is that you have to pop back up again and get things back into balance at the appropriate time. Sometimes people come up too fast when the project or issue isn’t resolved, and then have to dive back down again. You want to avoid these dramatic swings. Our direct reports or team might not like it because it’s uncomfortable or not the way we normally operate, so it’s useful to be transparent about your need to be closer or farther from a specific project or initiative. You might say, “this is an important priority for the board, so I’ll have to get in closer for a short period of time. I know you prefer more autonomy, so at a point in time, we’ll revert back to the comfort level you and I prefer.” Sometimes you have to do the opposite and pull back from someone who typically likes to partner more closely, letting them know you have other priorities that are going to demand your attention for a period of time. So the trick, I believe, is about balance and communication.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever given?
De-risking the people is essential to finding the right fit when changing jobs. Often people will start by de-risking the science, asking about what the technology is like, for example. That is incredibly important, of course, but more is needed. You really need to know what the culture and the people are like. You need to peek under the hood: What is the CEO really like? What’s the executive team like? How do they make decisions and solve problems? How do they treat their staff? What is the board like and how do they operate? This tells you what the culture is really like beyond what’s on the website and promotional materials, and gives you a sense of whether you’ll fit in and enjoy working somewhere.

Tim Hunt, CEO of ARM, on the Best Leadership Advice He’s Given and Received
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