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There are times when Sanofi executive Anne Whitaker -- and lots of other executives for that matter -- might like to have a GPS to help steer their companies through the changes transforming the pharmaceutical industry.

Instead, they have to rely on their leadership skills.

"When you're in a changing environment, you can't take a GPS,'' Whitaker said during a recent talk at the Rutgers Business School. "You have to have enough of a vision so that people trust that you know where you're taking them."

Whitaker, who runs Sanofi's North American pharmaceutical business and sits on the company's global leadership team, spoke as part of the CEO Lecture Series hosted by Dean Glenn Shafer and the Rutgers Business School Board of Advisors. Whitaker was the seventh executive to appear as part of the series.

During a talk entitled "Change Agility in a Dynamic Industry," she provided the audience with a glimpse into one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies and offered some insights into an industry that represents a vital part of the New Jersey economy.

Whitaker said Sanofi has proved its own agility in a number of ways, including its decision to acquire Genzyme and its strategy of becoming a diversified healthcare company even as some of its biggest competitors began spinning off parts of their businesses to focus more resources on developing new medicines.

"Most companies are not change agile," Whitaker said. "They are companies that manage change. They are companies that react to change. An agile company is proactive. They don't wait for change to happen."

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