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Contributor II


I just read an interesting article about leadership and chemistry:

Can leadership skills elevate scientists & engineers beyond research? EIN Presswire - Philip Abraham - May 14, 2019 07:41

Leadership education will help with research Emerging laboratory heads need to be equipped to lead these teams for innovation by learning to harness this diversity Leadership skills for the...

For those of you who chose a leadership track - what was your goal? 

Did becoming a leader rather than staying at the bench help you achieve your goal?

Where did you learn to be a leader? Industry is more deliberate, academia less focused on training and more on experience.

For those who have participated in the ACS Leadership training, did that help make you a better leader?

ACS also has a Division focused on Management- BMGT. I'm a member of BMGT and find lots of opportunities to interact with others in leadership positions.

Anyone willing to share thoughts on the difference between leadership and management?

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2 Replies
New Contributor III

Re: Leadership

On Management vs Leadership:

From my experience in industry, I make a distinction between people management and program management.  Generally speaking, people managers deal with helping employees deploy their skills towards assigned tasks, evaluating their contribution, and ensuring that budgets are kept in line.  A program manager worries less so about people and budget, and moreso works to define tasks, the approaches preferred, and ensures efficient communication between team members to avoid unforeseen problems or delays.  I usually think that leadership is a much greater benefit towards success for the program/project manager, but good leadership is always welcome for both people and program managers.  Separately, having mentors is invaluable for junior employees, irregardless if they are in your chain of command!

Contributor III

Re: Leadership

First of all, I was rather disappointed to see that the “article” was nothing more than an advertisement for a training company. Nothing but the usual pablum without substance, and a claim that taking their course will somehow make one more successful. There are plenty of better articles from business and trade journals that might really help someone decide if they have some areas in which they can improve.

Secondly, of course “leadership skills” will enhance anyone in any position! Again, whether a person is in a position to get value from a paid course or not is something else. My best mentor at the start of my career gave me timeless advice: “There are never enough competent or capable managers. Anyone who shows potential will get noticed and have the opportunity to develop.” Some continuing education and self development is always good, but don’t expect a specific course or even a particular degree to put you on some fast track to management. In business, you will usually be placed in a challenging position first, and THEN you may get assistance in training (you may also have to exhibit the initiative to ask for it as well) to help you perform even better. NO company intentionally tries to fail!

Third, the first question a person needs to answer for themselves is what type of career path they really want. I spent several interesting years in charge of a research group, but in the end, it was not my “career” position. I wanted (and got) direct involvement in where my science was affecting the industry and individuals. If an academic or industrial research career is not what you want to do for your entire work years, then it does become essential to master the much more subtle skills of people management and influence without authority.

“Leaders” are needed at every level, in every type of enterprise. What particular leadership path one may choose or develop also depends on their interests. But it is counterproductive to professional development to imply that there is some greater reward for becoming a people manager (even if technical) than simply being able to lead in other research or industrial groups. As with specific scientific disciplines or degree levels, the simply fact is that NOT everyone is capable of the same things. We ALL can do our best, and continually improve, but simply wanting to be a manager or leader will not make you one. Examine your motivations carefully. If you really enjoy empowering and developing people, encouraging team work and rewarding others instead of yourself, you may be ready to learn the mechanics of better leadership. If you are only drawn by the lure of a larger paycheck or social prestige, you may not be a very good leader even if you get selected for the position.

I missed my technical expertise and applications when I became more and more involved in managing larger teams instead of doing the front-line work. But, I did get more professional satisfaction out of seeing my teams succeed, my personnel advance and progress, and a sense of accomplishment in achieving corporate goals well.

In the end – the last 15 years of my career – I was an independent consultant. That was an ideal combination for me to use my technical background and expertise with my management and business skills. My last long contract involved direct interaction and advising to corporate CEOs and senior staff. My impact was only with what I could convince them was the best course of action. Apparently I did that fairly well, as I maintained that employment and even turned down future offers in order to reasonably retire.

Best regards,

Steven Cooke, MChE, FAIC, CQE, CQE


Process Systems Consulting