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Executive Education

INSEAD Certificate in Global Management

Embracing Limitless Potential

Anar Andani

Global Medical Affairs Director, GSK

Be open to getting out of your comfort zone. Embrace challenges as they can promote growth and clarity. Finally, never compare yourself with others – focus on your own journey and celebrate every step of the way.

In the quest to prevent infectious diseases, Anar Andani is someone deeply committed to advocating for the cause. Her journey is not just a testament to personal development but also the transformative power of a growth mindset and empathetic leadership style. 

From an early age, Anar understood the importance of perseverance and determination. Born in Canada to parents of East African-Indian heritage with Persian influences, she navigated the complex dualities of eastern values at home in a western way of life, an experience that instilled in her a deep sense of empathy, shaping her identity and fuelling her commitment to breaking down barriers and encouraging inclusivity in the healthcare sector.

“Being first-generation and first-born carries a certain weight and a certain expectation. You also must pave your own way as you are doing everything for the first time because there's no precedent,” says Anar.

Anar's professional journey started with a scientific degree in biology, coupled with hands-on experience in a molecular biology laboratory. Undeterred by the challenges of starting her career path after graduation, Anar remained resolute in pursuing a career aligned with her passion for health and disease prevention.

“If someone told me 20 years ago when I was working in the molecular biology lab in university and trying to find my first job that I would be a leader in global medical affairs, living in the heart of Europe and working for a world-leading company, I am not sure whether I would have believed them”, shares Anar.

Today at GSK, Anar’s role is to bridge scientific innovation and its application into healthcare systems, where she works with diverse stakeholders, from leading healthcare professionals to policymakers, and scientific organisations. Her role is to address unmet medical needs, support data and evidence generation to inform policy decisions, and ensure that innovations translate into tangible benefits for people and populations.

At the core of Anar’s approach is harnessing a growth mindset—a belief in the power of continuous learning, resilience, and adaptation. This mindset has enabled her to embrace challenges with courage, propelling her towards achieving ambitious goals. 

“This growth mindset is what allowed me to be daring, seize opportunities, and continually evolve, such as when I had the opportunity to move to different countries, to take on new roles and challenges over the years,” says Anar.

Anar's perspective on life is captured in the notion of limitless thinking: 

Everything starts with a thought, only then can you make it a reality. It's important to be bold when you think about your future and your ambitions – be without limits. Including the benefit to others is another way to make your ideas more powerful.

This perspective has led her to the global headquarters of GSK. Previously she held various scientific and medical roles in Canada and London where she broadened her perspectives by working in global communications. Then she returned to infectious diseases such hepatitis, influenza, and meningitis. She is currently based in Brussels working in global medical affairs.

As Anar progresses in her career, she embodies a leadership style characterised by confidence and rooted in empathy. She has internalized  the importance of collaboration, effective communication, active listening, and trust-building to drive the best results. She inspires others to embrace their potential through mentoring and is contributing meaningfully to health equity and preventing disease.

Catalysts for Inspiration

Contributing to her success is the influence of female role models at different levels—within her family, locally, and on a global scale. When she was growing up, her immediate and extended family instilled the values of being supported and a strong work ethic. Locally, she had admired the vision and leadership of Hazel McCallion, a Canadian politician and mayor in her city, who left a lasting legacy.

“Hazel McCallion was a politician with integrity. She served 12 consecutive terms and 36 years as a mayor in the city where I grew up. She was very much an outlier: a visionary leader, daring and one of a kind. She set up conditions for a sustainable environment and growth of the city, and was a model for healthy aging. She was still skating and riding her bike even as an older adult”.

Anar found inspiration during her formative years, the 1990s, in the ever-evolving narrative of global music-icon Madonna, a rule-breaker who paved the way for others. “Madonna is constantly reinventing herself and redefining her narrative in the cultural zeitgeist. Being fearless, visionary and daring, she opened doors for others,” says Anar.

“Both Hazel McCallion and Madonna have inspired others to emulate what they had done. They made a positive difference to society in the long term, always acted with integrity, and are models for healthy ageing.”

Navigating barriers

Anar recognises the challenges hindering gender equity in the biopharma and life sciences sector. Gender pay parity remains a persistent issue, while unconscious biases for some processes continue to pose obstacles. Anar advocates for a collective effort by both policymakers and business leaders to create conditions conducive to diversity and parity. In her current workplace, she is fortunate to witness a positive shift with strong female leadership in multiple roles setting an example.

In terms of women empowerment and gender inclusivity, she says

Globally, some basic elements are still not in place – women need to have bodily autonomy and all their health rights. This is a foundational right and essential to address in order to achieve gender equity in all aspects.

Besides her professional endeavours, Anar emphasises the importance of balance in life and calls it non-negotiable. Acknowledging the demanding nature of her work, she underscores the need for intentional efforts to maintain a balanced life. Physical well-being through exercise and meditation, spending time with loved ones, and a love for nature and cultural experiences constitute the elements that rejuvenate her and contribute to sustainable success.

Continuous learning

In her pursuit of personal development, Anar's commitment to continuous learning led her to pursue the INSEAD Certificate in Global Management (CGM), which has become a catalyst for her personal and professional growth. She found the programme's diversity in participants, professors, and perspectives enriching, and helped to enhance her leadership skills.

“I gained tremendously from each programme, particularly the leadership transition, strategic decision-making, negotiation dynamics, and managing partnerships and alliances,” says Anar.

In particular, she found the focus on psychological and emotional intelligence components during the leadership transition module especially impactful.

"Traditionally, the focus has been on IQ [intelligence quotient] and critical thinking. However, I continue to appreciate that psychological and emotional intelligence are as, if not more important, especially as you progress into more senior leadership roles. For example, in a high-pressure environment, building trust within the team and with stakeholders is vital. Moreover, recognising and nurturing people’s individual talents is crucial both for productivity and for developing their career path", she adds.

Drawing from her experiences, Anar’s advice to aspiring women leaders is to build connections with women they admire, based on shared purposes and values.

“Be open to getting out of your comfort zone. Embrace challenges as they can promote growth and clarity. Finally, never compare yourself with others – focus on your own journey and celebrate every step of the way”, says Anar.