Developing yourself as a PI

For the busy principal investigator, leadership development may seem like an effort but it can really enhance the capacity to lead oneself, others and the team.

A critical skill for leaders is the ability to manage their own learning. See our case studies page where four research leaders reflect on a range of leadership development activities. Meaningful development does take up some time and effort, so it is really in your own interest to invest in some personal reflection and self-analysis to get a clear idea of what your needs and aims are, before committing to any development activities.


Reflect on your performance and your previous experiences and capture the learning and development that you gain from them. Develop your understanding of your own motivation: a) through theory b) through practice.

Self analysis

Have a look at the skills and characteristics of a PI; do you recognise yourself here? Then use the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) or the RDF Planner to:

  • identify existing  knowledge, behaviour and attitudes
  • identify core strengths
  • evidence your abilities and identify gaps.

To complete the picture, consider finding out more about how others view your performance by actively seeking  feedback from them e.g. 360 degree feedback.

What next?

Your plan for your own development might include some or any of the following:

  • Opportunity awareness: gain a wider knowledge of the academic sector to identify, create, investigate and seize areas for personal and professional development. Identify possible sources of information and support within your institution
  • Decision making: understand your personal priorities and constraints (internal and external), so that each developmental opportunity and career step can be made following an informed decision. You need to be able to match these to your core skills, knowledge, values and motives, etc.
  • Networking: develop networks of contacts. You should be able to define, develop and maintain a support network for advice and information
  • Self presentation and promotion: define and promote your own agenda. Promote your own strengths in a convincing way
  • Goal setting and action planning: move your career forward in a structured way through planning and implementing an effective course of action, organising time effectively and preparing contingency plans. You should be able to monitor and evaluate progress against specific objectives. Consider using the RDF planner to structure this process.