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Academic Leadership – What helped you develop your leadership skills?

We tend to be a bunch of quick learners, creative thinkers, and tenacious problem solvers as scientists or researchers, but there is one thing that can make each of us a more valued and effective researcher: leadership qualities.

Researchers with great leadership skills may comprehend the technical parts of their profession and encourage team members, strategize, develop initiatives, and stick to a budget.

In today’s competitive employment environment, developing leadership abilities can help you

  • get promoted,
  • earn more money,
  • and explore new opportunities.

Leadership skills are vital regardless of how long you’ve been in research.

Students in high school and college:
You are the leader of your own time, and you must accept responsibility for completing the steps required to complete projects.

Students in graduate school:
You are in charge of research projects, working in groups, sharing your findings, and looking for research mentors. Some of you will be teaching and planning lessons for students.

Postdocs must assume responsibility for initiatives, form collaborations, seek financing, and lead teams.

Professors and Other Professional Career Paths:
You direct projects, teams, and labs, as well as motivate and educate your team members and communicate your research findings.

Choosing one or two of the following leadership abilities to improve will put you on the right track to becoming a more competitive and productive researcher.

One of the most essential lessons I’ve learnt about leadership is the importance of communication. Leaders must be able to effectively express their objectives and expectations to their teams and stakeholders, be receptive to criticism, acknowledge team accomplishments, and comfort team members when they fail.

Building trusted relationships:
Relationships are about creating trust with people so that you have a network from which to provide and receive assistance and information. Strong relationships allow you to work better in groups and locate chances like jobs, financing, and mentorship. The most difficult aspect of building leadership skills for me was the lack of a mentor who had taken a similar career route to mine—exiting academia, accepting a fellowship in government, and then entering the charity sector. Look for a mentor who can assist you.

Strategic thinking:
I don’t recall anyone offering training in strategic thinking when I was working in academia, but having a plan in place that defines goals, approaches to reaching those goals, time-bound, measurable objectives that define the desired outcomes, and the tools you will use to get there ensures that your team understands your expectations and the plan to get there.

When I got my first post doc, I was encouraged to study papers about how to be a more successful project manager. The day I learnt about Gantt charts, I realised how inefficiently I had organised my research projects. I’ve also learnt that delegation is an essential component of effective project management. Failure to delegate results in irritation and self-doubt among team members with specific expertise. Fortunately, new tools for keeping our initiatives on schedule exist. I’m now experimenting with Trello (officially) and Notion (personal and collaboration outside office work), which are digital platforms. Other platforms are intended exclusively for research projects.

Time management:
I had minimal formal instruction in time management in academics, yet it is a key ability for being efficient and productive in any employment.

Financial discipline:
Knowing where to source financing, how to keep within strict limits, and what reporting requirements are necessary can help you get the next budget authorised.


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