Amgen’s Cynthia Patton is Delegating for Success

Amgen’s Cynthia Patton knows that building a team of strong leaders starts with empowering them to lead

Cynthia Patton has never been a big fan of hand-holding. As Amgen’s senior vice president and chief compliance officer, she says that micromanaging team members leads to missed opportunities in terms of discovering capabilities and empowering staff members to excel.

Cynthia Patton Amgen
Cynthia Patton, Amgen Photo by Patrick Strattner

“From a corporate perspective, successful delegation helps identify future leaders,” Patton says. “Delegation, done correctly, gives an individual the confidence to use his or her own decision-making skills, and I can watch how they navigate complicated situations.”

Patton first joined Amgen, an international biopharmaceutical corporation headquartered in California, as associate general counsel, in 2005, following several years as a healthcare attorney. In 2012, she was promoted to her current role as chief compliance officer. Although she immediately fell in love with the challenges of the new role, she also discovered that her staff was struggling with decision-making—something she immediately set out to fix.

“It was very important to me that my team be agile,” Patton says. “A global company like Amgen faces many complicated risk issues. We need people to understand the business and show maturity and nimbleness when navigating complex challenges.”

From the outset, she made it a point to stress that team members needed to own their decisions. She made herself available to help and support them with particularly thorny situations, but she pushed back if they tried to get her to solve the problem for them. “I’d ask them what they would do instead, and as I suspected, the solutions they brought to me were just as good as anything I could have come up with on my own,” Patton says. “I also don’t tell them what I would have done. This way, they are more invested in the solution because it was their own idea and they know I trust them.”

She also makes sure her team understands that it’s okay to challenge her and push back. This encourages her team members to grow, gain confidence, and think proactively about finding better solutions, and it cultivates among them a culture of confidently pushing back against the status quo. For example, when Amgen’s head of investigations was building her team, she developed an entirely new model that Patton concedes she never would have considered. “It’s a model that the rest of the compliance organization has started to use as they develop their own teams,” she says.

Outside counsel engaged by Amgen attest to the company’s commitment to compliance. “Ropes & Gray values the partnership we have established with Cynthia Patton and her team at Amgen,” says Tim McCrystal, a partner and cochair of the healthcare practice at Ropes & Gray. “We look forward to continuing to serve as a resource for compliance-related matters and other key legal issues, and to working with Cynthia to support Amgen’s global ethics and compliance program.”

Cynthia Patton Amen
Photo by Patrick Strattner

Patton says that giving staff ownership and seeing how they run with it also provides significant value in succession planning—and not just in her department. “One of the best mechanisms to determine who your leaders are is to observe who will take delegation and actually run with it,” she says. “That leadership capability and talent can be deployed in other areas of the company, and the more compliance-trained staff that can go on to roles in other parts of the company, the better it is for Amgen.”

In addition to her work cultivating her team, Patton is a board member for a number of healthcare and educational organizations. She has long been passionate about healthcare and access to quality education for the underserved, and she’s happy to apply to such causes the knowledge that she’s gained through her work at Amgen and her years of practicing law. Moreover, she’s proud to be a mentor to many both inside and outside of Amgen.

“I’ve had great success at the top of the team, but the bigger reward is getting others there,” she says. “It’s also important for me to be a mentor for women and other diverse individuals—and to help them understand the expectations of leadership. At Amgen, I have a unique seat at the table; it’s wasted if I don’t use it to help others.”

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Ropes & Gray values our longstanding relationship with leading global biotechnology company Amgen. As compliance counsel to Amgen, we provide ongoing support and advice to senior vice president and chief compliance officer Cynthia Patton as well as to the compliance committee of Amgen’s board of directors. We advise on matters relating to Amgen’s compliance program and related functions and activities, including policies and procedures, training, and monitoring and auditing, among other areas.

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DLA Piper:

“DLA Piper is proud to work with Amgen and Cynthia Patton, a tremendous lawyer, chief compliance officer and friend. We congratulate Cynthia and her team for building an outstanding compliance program.”

—John Rah, Partner