GSK today announces that Emma Walmsley, currently Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GSK’s Consumer Healthcare division, is appointed GSK CEO Designate and will succeed Andrew Witty as GSK CEO, when he retires on 31March 2017. Emma will join the GSK Board of Directors from 1 January 2017.

Emma is currently CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare, one of the world’s largest consumer health companies, established in 2015 following completion of GSK’s three-part transaction with Novartis.

Prior to this, Emma was President of GSK Consumer Healthcare and has been a member of GSK’s Corporate Executive Team since 2011.  Emma joined GSK in 2010 from L’Oreal where, over the course of her 17-year career, she held a variety of marketing and general management roles in the UK, Europe and USA. From 2007 she was based in Shanghai as General Manager, Consumer Products for L’Oreal China.

Philip Hampton, GSK Chairman, said: “I am very pleased to announce Emma’s appointment, after what has been a very thorough and rigorous global selection process carried out by the GSK Board of Directors.

Emma is an outstanding leader with highly valuable experience of building and running major global businesses and a strong track record of delivering growth and driving performance in healthcare. Under Andrew’s leadership, GSK has successfully developed into a company with market-leading positions in pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare.  These provide excellent platforms for sustainable, long-term growth, and we are confident Emma will successfully build on these strengths.”

Emma Walmsley said:  “I am delighted and honoured to be appointed GSK’s next CEO. GSK is a company that leads both in science and in the way it does business. We have momentum in the Group and as the demand for medical innovation and trusted healthcare products continues to rise, we have the opportunity and the potential to create meaningful benefits for patients, consumers and our shareholders. I’m looking forward to working with Andrew and other leaders over the next few months to ensure a smooth handover and to develop plans for 2017 and beyond.”

Since becoming a female leader within business, Walmsley has joined a growing list of inspirational figures who are breaking down the glass ceiling and challenging the patriarchy that can typically be found in many leading organizations. However, her appointment isn’t a token appointment or a grand gesture towards gender equality in the workplace. Instead, Emma earned the position through merit, qualifications, experience, and hard work. 

Since becoming a female leader within business, Walmsley has joined a growing list of inspirational figures who are breaking down the glass ceiling and challenging the patriarchy that can typically be found in many leading organizations. However, her appointment isn’t a token appointment or a grand gesture towards gender equality in the workplace. Instead, Emma earned the position through merit, qualifications, experience, and hard work. 


If her success inspires you and you now want to position yourself to one day have the capabilities to be a leader within business, regardless of if you’re male or female, the following are a few things you should be doing to help you reach these same heights.


Get The Right Education 


The education you receive is perhaps the biggest factor towards becoming a CEO or business leader in your field. As a leader, you will be responsible for making key strategic decisions regarding the business you oversee, meaning that you need to have the appropriate knowledge to make the right decisions that will see your business grow. 


When seeking an education, make sure that you enroll in a course that is relevant to what you want to do. For example, as Emma Walmsley is now a CEO of a business that operates in the health and medical fields, it would suit her to get an education on the profession to complement her business acumen. If you want to follow a similar path as to what Emma has walked, then it might be worth considering an online RN to MSN to get you started in healthcare, to then build upon with a more business-orientated master’s degree so that all bases of the industry are covered. 


Additionally, education in more generic business degrees can also be helpful if you’re still yet unsure what specific industry you want to enter, as the knowledge you obtain here will be transferable into almost any sector. 


If you’ve already begun your career, or are no longer at the typical age of a college or University student, then it may be tough to enroll in a traditional course due to your circumstances. You may not be in a position to leave your job to seek full-time education, and financial factors or family commitments might make it hard to move to an on-campus living environment. That’s why so many aspiring business leaders are obtaining their degrees through online courses. 


On these digital degrees, you will be able to study alongside your work commitments and engage in lessons and course resources at times that suit you. This flexibility makes it a lot easier to get the education you need to grow into a businessperson capable of becoming a CEO.


Obtain Relevant Experience


It goes without saying that not every successful CEO or business leader has obtained a degree. In fact, some of the leading figures at the biggest businesses haven’t got a degree or any form of official education. However, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t dedicate their business life to learning. Instead, these people who have made a success of themselves have surrounded themselves with first-hand experience within business, and have used these experiences to help improve their knowledge and understanding of how things work and what best to do. 


This is why it’s such a good idea to try and obtain as much experience as you can early, as being amongst business will help you learn things that simply can’t be taught on a course. If you’re in a good position to do so, it’s very much worth spending a few weeks on an internship or a month shadowing an important individual or offering to be a personal assistant. 


If these opportunities are getting hard to come by, there are other ways you can get experience and knowledge about business. Paying to attend public seminars and talks from some of the key thought-leaders will give you a unique insight and knowledge that will otherwise be hard to obtain. Furthermore, taking the time to read books written by people in the industry or even listen to podcasts to keep up-to-date with the latest business changes can ensure that your understanding of business is sharp. 


The experience that you obtain will be able to bulk up your resume and make you a far more appealing candidate when you start to apply for leadership roles. 


Develop Useful Skills and Characteristics


If you evaluate the current leaders within business, Emma Walmsley included, you’ll find that there are a lot of overlapping character traits, skills, and characteristics. This isn’t a coincidence. To be a good, effective business leader, you need to develop some skills and characteristics that can help you in the position. 


One of the main skills you need to work on and develop is your leadership skills. It’s vital to understand what being a good leader is, as it’s simply more than just telling people what to do and manage others. A good leader will be able to evaluate their team, allocate tasks effectively, and communicate with authority and ease. However, the one aspect of being a good leader that many people ignore is that they are also good listeners. Far too many people fail in leadership positions because they ignore their staff and aren’t receptive to advice or suggestions. A leader should learn to value input from others, as it gives them a different perspective, and this collaborative approach could be better for business. 


A business leader also needs a huge amount of passion and drive if they’re to succeed. They need to be motivated to work as hard as they can for the business every day, as it’s their input that will direct where the business goes in the future, and ultimately its success. This position can be really stressful, and not everyone is cut out to deal with the pressure and constant attention that the role demands. This is why if you’re not within an industry that you absolutely love and have a burning passion for, then you might struggle to be a good CEO or leader of a business. 


It’s also a helpful trait to be sociable, and at the very least, have good public speaking and presentation skills. It’s not unusual to be very much in the public eye as a CEO, and it’s also important that you’re able to conduct meetings and build connections and relationships, be this face-to-face or at networking events that you may be hosting. If you’re a more introverted person and desire to lead a business, you need to work on your people skills and at least develop a persona and ability to come across as approachable, confident, and assured. 



Emma Walmsley joining the ranks as one of the first CEOs of a business is great news and should be celebrated profusely. However, the shift to more women in leadership roles shouldn’t end there, and instead, her success should inspire others to dream and work for the same standards. This article should explain some of the crucial steps on how to get there.