People + Strategy Journal

Spring 2021

Member Profile: Simon King

Simon King, Chief People Officer, Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., shares his background and journey as an HR leader.

Member Profile: Simon King

Simon King decided as a teen volunteering in a hospital that he wanted to help improve people’s lives. He became close to a patient who passed away from cancer, leading King to dedicate his career to making a difference for patients, particularly in the biopharma area, eventually studying genetics in college. 

Instead of pursuing a Ph.D., he began working in research and development for a pharmaceutical company. It was then that he learned he enjoyed recruiting and developing people more than other parts of his role. He approached his manager to move into HR and was turned down. He was determined to make the switch and continued to push the idea until he was permitted to transition into HR. 

King has used his passion for HR in roles such as Chair of the Board for the SHRM Executive Network. Outside of work, he, his wife of 30 years and two children enjoy time together when he is not whitewater kayaking, skiing or doing karate as a second-degree black belt. 

What has been your greatest challenge?

The greatest challenge has been getting comfortable with myself that I have both talent and weaknesses. Early in my career I found it hard to listen to feedback and did not hear where I needed to improve. Realizing that feedback is a gift was a breakthrough for me. I grew to understand that people have insights to help you grow, but you need to create an environment where they are comfortable sharing. 

What’s your leadership philosophy?

For people to achieve their potential, they need an environment where they feel safe experimenting. My philosophy is to understand the uniqueness of each person and create an environment where they bring their best. As a leader this means knowing when to lead from the front, when to stand up for the right thing and when to take a back seat to let your team shine.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

When I moved to the U.S., my new manager shared advice that I have used to guide my actions. His insight was that during your career there will come a time when you need to choose between your job and your values. If you lose your job, you can find another one, but if you lose your values, you lose yourself. This mantra has enabled me to make sure that I have made decisions guided by my values.