Vulnerable and strong

Sanofi France: Combining leadership and fragility
for sustainable performance


They might have a visible or invisible disability, either officially recognized or kept secret. Or they might have (or have had) a serious or chronic illness. Or maybe they’ve suffered from burnout. How does their company view these individuals? And how do they view their company? What does the company’s treatment of such employees tell us about leadership? And if the way a company treats these vulnerabilities changes, can leadership change too? These are the questions that Sanofi France wants to explore.

As society makes new demands, and as the affirmation of the individual grows in strength, companies’ internal organization, formalization of tasks and the role of authority are changing. These changes challenge the established principles of leadership based on the legitimacy of status, hierarchy and past experience.

Against this background, the way a company treats employees in vulnerable situations is becoming a key indicator of the organization’s basic human principles, the relation it has with performance and the meaning it gives to this performance. How do things stand at present — and how will they stand tomorrow — at Sanofi France and, more generally, in our society? These are the themes we wanted to investigate with a survey conducted at Sanofi France in the summer of 2019.

Ten Sanofi employees offered first-hand accounts of their experiences: Benoît, Claire, Corinne, Elizabeth, Fabienne, Géraldine, Guillaume, Hélène, Isabelle, Jan and Laurent. Some of these individuals have a disability, visible or invisible; some have had an illness or suffered from burnout that kept them away from their workplace for a lengthy period; some are responsible for managing people in fragile situations; and some have simply chosen to help change people’s views and practices. In favor to a more authentic leadership considering the human in all its facets, as well as for a more open and holistic approach to performance, focused on positive impact and sustainability.

 

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