The Secret to Being a Better Leader: See and Hear Others

This is an article by Dacher Keltner, one of the founders of the Greater Good Science Center and one of the leading psychologists today who studies emotions such as empathy, compassion, and awe, and the effects they have on individuals and groups.

The article correlates rise to leadership with empathy. Though perhaps it should be taken into account that in our industry, leadership is determined by grants, research, and publications; this correlation between leaders and empathy might not exist in our culture. However, this quote from the article struck me as important:

“Team members led by empathetic managers — who listen, hear, and take in what others think and feel — work in more productive, innovative, and satisfying ways.”

If this also applies to scientists, it is in the best interest of a group, institute, and funding body to promote empathetic PIs and group leaders. But there exists what Dacher calls a power paradox, in which leaders find it harder to be empathetic and can even lose their ability to do so after they’ve gained power. It is interesting to wonder if this also applies in science, and explains some of the bad mentoring stories we’ve heard. We’d love to hear your opinions on the topic in the comment section below.

CV of Failures

While not new, we thought we’d add this article to our collection so that it could be in our repository for others. The Guardian details the story of a Princeton professor who bravely published his CV on twitter with a list of his failures, including positions he didn’t get and papers that got rejected from top journals. We think it’s a refreshing view on the career path of an academic and a move towards breaking the myth that people who make it to the top do so only on a ladder of successes.

Job Stability not an Issue Just in Academic Research

This week’s Science magazine has an interesting piece about job stability in the pharmaceutical industry. It is a story about someone who got laid off in three consecutive jobs in the pharma world which, naturally, makes it sound a lot like someone doing the ‘postdoctoral circuit’ in academia.  The feelings are pretty much the same:

“So, finally, I chose to actively seek a change, and I ultimately moved into project management. The desire for a more stable, or at least more fungible, career was the practical appeal. The professional appeal was the opportunity to interact with and learn from professionals working across the full spectrum of pharmaceutical development, from discovery to brand launch and life cycle management. I enjoy the broad perspective and jack-of-all trades nature of the job, and I hope it will be my last career change.”

This short one is worth the read. As a friend of mine who is very determined to stay in science says, “it is really cold out there too”.

How Good Management Leads to Better Science

I must admit, I had not heard of Daniël Lakens before. He is an assistant professor in applied cognitive psychology at the Eindhoven University of Technology who, aside from his research, is actively engaged with broader issues in science: from statistics to open science, as well as how to implement better reward structures.

He has recently given an interview to the “I Love Experimentation” blog on How good management leads to better science. Though he touches on various points, two things resonated the most with me:

  1.  The importance of managers who understand that good research does not correlate with prestige or the number of publications. In his own words “If you try to improve the way you work, managers need to understand this will come at a cost. Being a highly productive crappy scientist is much easier than being a highly productive good scientist”.
  2. The value of considering problems within a historical context because some of the current ‘crises’ in science are not new and have been around for a long time. A recent Nature article gives a wonderful overview on the history of peer-review that clearly brings Daniël’s point home.

Needless to say, I’m glad I stumbled across his interview earlier this week. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on Daniël here at Labmosphere. If you’re interested, here’s a link to his twitter account.

Burnout in Academia

The Greater Good Science Center has recently published this article on risk factors for Burnout. What struck me most about the article is that in three out of the four risk factors, author Tchiki Davis mentions her experiences in graduate school. Does the culture at your institute perpetuate these risks? Does your own personality? If so, how do you prevent burnout in fields that promote or self-select for these types of behavior and personalities?