Many consider James Burke to be one of the most brilliant leaders CEOs of all times. His unique leadership style and combination of strong and extraordinary features of personality helped him to gain the respect and homage as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Indeed, James Burke is an outstanding figure in the history of the American commerce. He serves as a striking example of a true leader who remained dedicated and devoted to his work till the end of the life.
James E. Burke was born in 1925, in Rutland, Vermont. Though the small city, where he used to live, offered a few opportunities to develop, it did not prevent J. Burke from obtaining success and reaching high achievement in both private and public sector. During the World War II, J. Burke served in the US Navy and took part in the military operations. It was the first time when he demonstrated his leading qualities, high degree of discipline, and patience. Later, these qualities became crucial in his career life.
Soon after the war, James Burke graduated the college of Holy Cross and Harvard Business School, in 1949. Good education was the other key point of success, which defined Burke’ career and outstanding leadership. It helped him to become more confident in own abilities and comprehend the things more sophisticatedly.
Burke started his career at Johnson & Johnson in 1953 as a product director. There he spent more than 35 years of his life, being promoted to a president, chairman, and then CEO.
The years marked by J. E. Burke’s management were noticeably prosperous and successful for Johnson & Johnson Company. The reports show that the company managed to increase its sales dramatically (almost fivefold), triple its market capitalization, and extend its activities all over the globe. At the same time, the quantitative achievements were closely combined with the qualitative ones. Thereby, Johnson & Johnson used to orient on the customers’ needs and requirements, introduce innovations, and emphasize on the global standards of high quality.
The name of James Burke became well-known after the Tylenol poisonings in 1982 and 1986. At that time, he was already the leader of the company, who demonstrated unappalled openness, decisiveness, and determinacy in solving the problem. Thus, J. Burke ordered to send 450.000 messages to warn the people about danger and demanded to remove all products, containing Tylenol, from the shelves. Obviously, such unpopular measures could have become crucial for the company and could have led it to the complete bankruptcy. Nevertheless, foresight, prudence and providence of J. E. Burke helped to avoid the tragedy and failure of the company at once. People will always remember J. Burke for his devotion and quick response. After this incident, his leading qualities left no doubts or questions.
James E. Burke also was a chairman of the non-profit organization known as Partnership for a Drug-Free America. After the retirement from Johnson & Johnson, he did not give up his humanistic ideas and the desire to help the whole humanity. The aim of this organization was to spread the advertisement about the harmfulness of drugs and the importance to form a healthy nation. Burke took a direct part in this campaign, sending plenty of messages and involving media into the revelation of this issue. It is said that the Partnership for a Drug-Free America faced incomparable success under the leadership of J. E. Burke and became one of the most effective organizations at that time.
Generally, James Burke left a great step in the American history. His contributions to the success of Johnson & Johnson as well as to the well-being of the whole nation are exceptional and second to none. The fact he was awarded with the Presidential Medal of freedom witnesses one more time about his unique possibilities and leading qualities.
In my opinion, his unsurpassed success and career growth can be explained by the combination of the individual traits. Many people describe his leading style as acumen, dedicated, passionate, warn, sympathetic, forward-thinking, and socially-oriented. James Burke appreciated justice and fairness above all. Moreover, he paid great attention to the social well-being and health of the nation. That is why he treated the Tylenol tragedies so precisely and tried to prevent them as soon as possible.
The other peculiarity of J. Burke is his orientation on the result, rather than on profits or incomes. Sometimes, he introduced unpopular innovations, which were unlikely to bring any earnings. Despite of this, his confidence and farsightedness helped him to avoid the failures and improve the commercial position of Johnson & Johnson.
Obviously, there were some mistakes in his career. For example, in 1979, he decided to acquire new technical scan and ultrasound equipment. These steps presupposed to expand the target audience and facilitate the methods of medical examination. However, this project happened to be completely unsuccessful and unprofitable for the company. After this incident, J. Burke admitted that it was useless to deal with the things one was not acquainted with. Interestingly, he did not try to make any excuses, but just continued to improve the situation and think over new projects. It witnesses about his determinacy, persistence, and the desire to move forward.
To sum up, the unsurpassed leading style of James E. Burke is the result of his individual qualities, personal attitudes toward work and society, and permanent self-improvement and self-development. His contributions to the prosperity of Johnson & Johnson and Partnership for a Drug-Free America are difficult to overestimate. By nature, his name is a genuine synonym to successful leadership.