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Exploring individual leadership styles



Heidelberg, 28 March 2017 - “I went home feeling more prepared to face the academic future.” This is how Leonardo Valdivia, who will set up his own lab in Chile this year, described the value of the EMBO Laboratory Management Course on Research Leadership (see below).


Despite the pressures of tight budgets, winning grants, publishing papers and managing staff, dedicated scientists still find time to advance scientific knowledge. In addition to their talent, scientific skills and hard work, training in leadership can help them to further increase the research performance of their laboratories.


EMBO provides its Research Leadership course to help young group leaders and postdocs develop their leadership and management skills. What began over 10 years ago as a programme for EMBO Young Investigators has grown to a series of some 35 courses for scientists run each year in Heidelberg, Germany, with additional courses held throughout the world at universities and research institutes that request them (see below). To deliver broader training, EMBO is also exploring the provision of other courses relating to the responsible conduct and publication of research. The aim for the EMBO Laboratory Management courses on Research Leadership and other topics is to continue to contribute to the skills, productivity, well-being and fulfillment of those who dedicate their lives to science.


Leadership that fosters development


“Leadership is the art of guiding people to achieve a common vision, while taking care of their needs and fostering their development,” explains course leader CJ Fitzsimons. It is the ‘while’ in this statement that is key to the Research Leadership course philosophy.


Developing staff along the road to achieving a vision means that increasingly ambitious goals can be set as lab members gain skills and develop qualities. At the same time, supporting scientists to become well-rounded individuals who can contribute as leaders within or outside of research is critical to the future of science itself.


The Research Leadership course is focused on people, teams, and the skills needed to lead and manage them. The course does not provide a set ‘recipe’ for making identical leaders. Rather, participants explore their own leadership role(s) and personality to determine for themselves what kind of leader they want to be. The course then equips participants with ideas, models and tools with which to observe, analyse and influence their own and other people’s behaviour.


Previous participant Liming Sun, who started her lab at the Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology in Shanghai, China, two years ago, described her experience: “The course picked up very practical topics, then led us to dig into our own personalities to discover the internal building blocks of leadership. Pair and group discussions empowered me to have a clearer idea of how to develop more productive interpersonal communications.”


The course is delivered in a workshop style by experienced trainers from two partner consultancy firms. Each workshop is tailored directly to the experience and professional needs of the postdocs or group leaders who attend it, with examples, experiences, ideas and questions from the participants captured and integrated into the course. An example of one module, on ‘delegation’, is shown on these pages. Kerstin Kinkelin, who is establishing a training and career development programme for postdocs at the Francis Crick Institute in London, says: “The course was delivered in a perfect mix of theory and practice, and using personal experiences for role-plays made it very realistic. I feel much more confident now in facing the career challenges that lie ahead of me.”





Download this graphic for tips and tricks on delegation as presented in the course.



What are EMBO Laboratory Management Courses?


The EMBO Laboratory Management Course, now in its second decade, is administrated by EMBO’s not-for-profit daughter company, GFLW (Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Lebenswissenschaften Heidelberg GmbH). Three- and four-day residential courses for group leaders and postdocs take place throughout the year near Heidelberg, Germany. The course can also be delivered locally at institutes and universities worldwide.


In addition to the original course – which has been renamed “Research Leadership to better describe the content, value and aim of the course – GFLW offers EMBO courses on “Negotiation” and “Self-Leadership”. Together, they aim to address the continued awareness of the importance of good leadership and other ‘soft’ skills in science – both for the training and well-being of scientists, and for the quality and excellence of their research and its communication.


EMBO and GFLW are open to suggestions from the community for additional training or support needed to promote the responsible and efficient conduct of excellent research.


More information on how to attend a course or to organize one at a local institute is available on the EMBO Laboratory Management Course website.



Samuel CaddickSamuel Caddick
Project Co-ordinator
T. + 49 6221 8891 414
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This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Tilmann KiesslingTilmann Kiessling
Head, Communications
T. + 49 160 9019 3839