What does leadership mean to you? 10 quick tips
There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela
What image comes to your mind when you think of a leader? Which qualities do they display? Which emotions do they inspire? We would like to argue that leadership is much wider than being an academic, political or corporate leader. One way of thinking about a leader is that it is someone who's become very effective at using their high level capabilities (the ones you are honing doing research, for example). It is when you influence and inspire people, get things done and make the most of your skills. How do you develop that potential?
In the run up to the new highly anticipated edition of our Leadership in Action programme, this coming March, here are a few tips on developing you leadership potential…
Lead on your research
Do you lead on your research project? Do you take ownership and rise to challenges? Do you recognise yourself as pushing the boundaries of knowledge in your area and see your supervisors, principal investigators as valued allies and collaborators rather than those in charge?
Get to know your core values
Leading from your values will make you a more authentic, coherent and powerful leader. Developing self knowledge in this area will also be of tremendous use to you when you are making careers decisions and setting other priorities.
Start with the end in mind
Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve will allow you to be proactive in achieving it. To deliver it you need to develop a clear strategy. Take some time out to consider your long-term research, career and life goals.
Getting results is an important outcome of good leadership. Even if you are working on your own you are likely to need input from others (e.g. your supervisor, research colleagues, librarians, the lab manager). Think of yourself as the leader of this ‘team’ and consider what others need from you as well as what needs to be achieved.
Get the most out of meetings
Prepare to get the most out of meetings. Read any papers that have been sent out and think about what you want to achieve. Take responsibility for positive outcomes from meetings. Can you influence what is on the agenda or make the best possible use of it? Even if you don’t have an official position as leader or chair, influencing outcomes is a form of leadership.
Many teams interact primarily electronically. For such teams, clear and considered leadership is especially important. There are many things you can do to build and support successful virtual teams, including using a range of technologies to suit different preferences, focusing on team building and paying extra attention to cultural differences.
Leading on several projects at once is an essential skill which involves taking an overview, staying connected, prioritising and delegating effectively. A leader will ensure that all involved have a clear understanding of objectives, are empowered to work towards them and engaged in achieving results.
Leading in a crisis
In a crisis a leader must be prepared to make swift and sometimes tough decisions. You will need to adapt your leadership style to each situation, for example an authoritative approach may sometimes be necessary but will not always be appropriate or successful. A leader will also take the long view, seeing a crisis as an opportunity to change things for the better.
Are you worried your mild, unassuming manner means leadership is not for you? Think again! Extroverts and introverts can be equally successful in leadership roles. They simply display different leadership styles and approach challenges in different ways. Take inspiration from great leaders who relied on their own unique talents and personalities to bring about change. Find your own voice.
Seek opportunities to practice
A fantastic way to start practicing how to lead in a safe, supportive environment is to take part in an experiential learning course. These often residential programmes take you out of your usual setting to challenge your assumptions and help you set goals to grow personally and professionally. Vitae's next 'Leadership in Action', is an intensive three-day residential retreat led by an outstanding team of professional coaches in which you will experience leadership through case studies in small groups in a supportive and reflective environment. You can find out more about the next course here.