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Lack of Leadership Training in Academia

Posted on January 19, 2010

Everyone needs some kind of support in order to become an effective leader, believes Jacqueline Resnick (bio).


At the LTI [Leadership Training Institute] meeting in DC, I was asked about a problem that I see, which is leadership training within the academy, and I do think that is a problem. It's the only setting that I really know where if you're a good researcher they decide to make you a chair of a department. There's no guarantee that you know how to work with people, facilitate, deal with all the issues we were talking about.

So it's not that you have to go through formalized training, but you really need to look—some people have natural skills at doing these types of activities, but we don't have any formalized training. Some private institutions will do that, and I think it would be a wonderful model to have some form of training associated with leadership positions. All of sudden you're a chancellor, you're a vice chancellor, you're head of a major committee. You may be fabulous in a lab and you can work with a research team, possibly, but there's no guarantee that you know how to create a leadership approach for the institution.

I do have advice for young faculty who want to become leaders. I think that they need to look at what they have for leadership training within their institution. I think they have to look if there are external programs that they can get their institution to support that they attend.

I think there has to be consistency with that, and I think they have to have strong mentors. They should be identifying people who do that type of taking that approach. So I would say to the young people: stay true to your values. When you're doing research also take a step back and look at, are there pieces of what I'm doing that directly connect with areas of social justice that impacts on the world in which we live? Are there people I should be talking with? And not to be afraid to contact the most well known people in your field, because everyone has to talk to someone, sometime.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September, 2009.


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