Inclusive leadership training is the key to professional success and equity in science (opinion)

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Leadership and inclusion skills are increasingly recognized as essential doctoral skills. students and post-docs, or interns, in biological sciences. As today’s interns enter the workforce in research, education, business, and advocacy, they will become leaders tasked with creating a more equitable science culture and inclusive.

To develop inclusive leadership skills, interns should reflect on their career goals and develop a training plan that incorporates opportunities to develop leadership experience and self-awareness. They should seek out such leadership experiences and be able to recognize and express their leadership skills to others. In addition, institutions and educators can support the leadership development of bioscience trainees by implementing a new out-of-the-box program, the Leadership and Management in Action (L-MAP) program, which is now available free of charge under a Creative Commons license with generous support. from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. I have described these elements in more detail below.

Gain leadership experience during university and postdoctoral training

There are several ways that bioscience interns can gain leadership and management experience to enhance their career preparation. Many interns begin to develop their leadership skills by joining a group of students or post-docs at their institution and taking on a leadership role. These groups may include government student organizations, identity and affinity groups and professional interest groups or other internship organizations. Serving on departmental, programmatic or other ad hoc institutional committees is another way to gain experience and learn from university leaders. Professional societies and local organizations also have the option of being part of committees or volunteer activities.

Post-docs may also find opportunities to exercise leadership while conducting research. They can talk to their principal investigator about managing a project or protocol that involves working with research teammates or improving the work environment for everyone. There may also be opportunities to mentor junior scientists, including undergraduates. Working on a collaborative project with colleagues from other institutions or interdisciplinary fields is another great way to develop scientific skills as a team. By engaging in such experiences, interns develop leadership skills and stories that they can share with hiring managers during a job search.

Develop leadership self-awareness through self-reflection

To be successful in their careers, Ph.D. scientists must be able to communicate the value of their leadership skills and experiences to potential employers. Understanding and articulating their value in the job market requires confidence and awareness of one’s leadership skills. Reflecting on experiences, individually or in groups, is a great way to develop self-awareness and language that can be used in working papers and interviews.

Self-awareness of leadership is not only a valuable asset for job seekers, but is also essential for creating inclusive work environments. Leaders and managers have a strong influence on group dynamics and organizational culture, so it is important to have a thorough understanding of your own leadership style and how it affects others. Through self-reflection, Ph.D. scientists can recognize leadership biases and systemic inequalities, which enables them to engage more actively and effectively in creating diverse, inclusive and equitable work environments. As tomorrow’s science leaders, Ph.D. students and postdocs with a leadership self-awareness can positively influence science culture by practicing inclusive and culturally appropriate work practices in their future careers.

L-MAP: a new program to develop inclusive leadership skills

Participation in a formal leadership training program enables trainees to develop leadership self-awareness, learn new leadership approaches, and achieve leadership skill building goals. The Leadership and Management in Action program is a new out-of-the-box leadership program for bioscience interns that applies an equity and inclusion framework to the development of leadership skills. The training materials can be implemented free of charge at any institution under a Creative Commons license. The L-MAP workbook has been downloaded for use by educators and trainees at public and private research universities, medical schools and teaching hospitals, independent research institutes, STEM educational organizations, professional societies scientists, national institutes of health and biomedical societies.

The L-MAP program provides a knowledge base and active learning exercises to help bioscience trainees develop their leadership skills and self-awareness. It includes case studies for active learning based on group discussion, individual reflection prompts, guidelines for writing a leadership statement, and instructions for setting SMART goals for continuous development. The program was developed from evidence-based research into the leadership and team dynamics challenges that bioscience trainees regularly encounter in the research environment. He has been informed through surveys and focus groups and recognizes the ways in which the dominant white culture affects leadership and organizations.

In post-workshop evaluations, trainees who completed the program indicated that reflection and discussion using the L-MAP program provided “a new dimension to … university education” as well as “unique perspectives and points of view. On leadership. The interns also recognized that L-MAP is only the beginning of their inclusive leadership development and recognized the need for continuous experience and reflection.

Here are some tips for implementing L-MAP in your facility:

  • Career Development Educators: Host a series of workshops or a course based on the L-MAP workbook. A facilitator’s guide and training of trainers resources are available for anyone interested in organizing inclusive leadership training using this new program.
  • Principal Investigators: Discuss L-MAP articles and case studies with trainees in your lab and encourage them to incorporate SMART leadership goals into their individual development plans.
  • PhD students and postdoctoral groups: Use the workbook to organize a leadership book club or informal discussions about leadership skills.
  • Individual trainees: Use the L-MAP workbook for self-reflection, self-study and goal setting.

Periods of degree and postdoctoral training are ideal for developing leadership skills and experience and for reflecting on values ​​as a leader. These activities can increase career preparation and prepare interns to communicate their value to hiring decision makers in academia and beyond. Taking the time to reflect on leadership styles helps job seekers identify work environments that match their values ​​and understand their role in creating or changing a corporate culture. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, as the next generation of scientific leaders, have the opportunity to practice leadership that prioritizes inclusion and equity to create a culture where all are welcome and where all can succeed. .

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