So, I went to an Academic Leadership Workshop. If you are interested in leadership at all or think you might want to run your department or college, I highly suggest going to something like this. The workshop was short, as these things go. It was about two jam-packed days. It was really informative and interesting. After attending, I really want to move into more leadership in various ways at my university. Here are some things we did that I thought were excellent about the conference.
- Types of leadership roles. When people think about academic leadership, they immediately think of being dean or provost, but there are many types of leadership roles. One thing I liked about the workshop I went to was that it discussed being a chair, dean, provost, chancellor, etc. But, it also talked about being the lead on a center grant within your institution or a multi-instiutional center. Further, there are a lot of leadership skills you need just to run your group, or lead a committee within a department. We talked about all these types of leadership roles and how leadership skills are important for all of them.
- Workshopping. A lot of “workshops” say they are workshops, when really they are just panels or lectures. This workshop actually allowed us to “work.” We were split into different groups and each group was assigned a different academic leadership role. My group was all people who would be applying for multi-institutional center grants. Other groups were people applying for chair positions at other schools (outside hires), dean positions, and provost positions. This part was really hard, which is to say that I learned a lot. The experts who were helping us were really good at pushing us to shore up our deficiencies in our proposals and hone our messages. It was pretty cool. We also had a lot of group work discussions about difficult situations and conversations revolving around making choices with your time, development (gift giving), and difficult conversations that leaders often have.
- Expert Panels. Just because we did a lot of workshopping doesn’t mean their weren’t panels. The panelists were pretty awesome. Some of the most important things I learned included: 1. Being an academic leader means you can help enable more science on a broader level than just doing science yourself. 2. You can have a life and be an academic leader. 3. You should maintain your research as an academic leader because then you will always have your research career to “fall back on.” 4. With more responsibility comes even more freedom to choose your own schedule.
- 360 Evaluation. Perhaps the most important and informative part of the workshop was the 360 evaluation of my leadership skills. If you haven’t heard of this, a 360 is where you ask people above, below, and at your peer level questions about your management and leadership style. They answer questions, and these questions address specific leadership style attributes. The interesting thing is that you don’t have to be good at every one of the 16 attributes to be a great leader – you only need to be good at 5/16 attributes. If you are not strong in 5 regions, you can work on complimentary strengths to get stronger as a leader overall. Finally, there isn’t one way to be a good leader. Perhaps people realize that now after seeing successful leaders of various types in popular culture. The interesting part of this exercise was to discover that I am a pretty good leader, and to understand what else I need to work on to continue to mature and become an excellent leader.
So, over the next few months, I will likely share more from this workshop. I won’t be able to capture all the excitement and enthusiasm that the experts gave, which really sold academic leadership for me, but I hope to communicate some of these ideas to help you become a great leader of your research group or departmental committee. To get an email every time I post, push the +Follow button.