STEM leadership

3 reasons science faculty need leadership training

Connecting STEM faculty to opportunities to build leadership skills can benefit universities

Do engineers and researchers need to know basic business leadership principles? Some universities are saying yes, noting that basic business leadership concepts can help academic researchers and scientists cultivate career experience.

U.S. corporations spend billions each year on leadership and management training, and while the focus has been on business people, some universities are encouraging their engineering and science faculty to enroll in similar training programs to strengthen their human-centered leadership skills as they pursue their own research and mentor students.

When science and engineering faculty members are not schooled in effective leadership, they waste time dealing with lack of motivation and unnecessary conflict and interpersonal issues, said MIT Professor Charles Leiserson, lead professor of a summer leadership course offered by MIT Professional Education.

After teaching leadership workshops for hundreds of engineering and science faculty members, Leiserson said hardly any of the professors had ever taken a class in leadership skills or knew of their existence.

At most universities, junior faculty members must learn leadership skills on the job by trial and error, often to the detriment of their students and careers. Senior faculty members’ failure to provide a supportive culture could harm the reputation of their department or laboratory, he added.

(Next page: Three reasons leadership skills could benefit your science faculty)

Laura Ascione