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Rising Through The Ranks: Interview With Celgene CEO Mark Alles


Among the most valuable lessons Mark Alles learned in the U.S. Marine Corps was saluting. Not so much the hand gesture itself, but the reasons for it and the mutual respect it signifies.

Junior personnel salute those with higher rank, of course, but the senior officer is expected to return the gesture, Alles explained.

"If he or she doesn't do that and greet the person that's more junior, that tradition is violated," he said. "There's almost nothing worse in the military than not returning a salute."

While the salute isn't generally used outside the military, showing respect up and down the chain of command is vital to engaging employees and building a successful enterprise, said Alles, 56, who became CEO of pharmaceutical-maker Celgene (CELG - Get Report) in March. The Summit, N.J.-based company specializes in drugs for cancer and severe, immune, inflammatory diseases, according to its website.

Must Read: How 16 Ex-Military CEOs are Trouncing Wall Street

Celgene's performance, which includes a 47% gain over the past two years that outpaced both the S&P 500 and the S&P Health Index, reflects the competitive edge of companies led by former military personnel compared with broader markets, a trend identified in an analysis of corporate data by BoardEx, a subsidiary of TheStreet that monitors corporate...