July 2012

Complementary skills: leadership and management

Managing an academic lab or an industry team of scientists requires good leadership and management skills, but these skills are rarely taught or discussed directly in training programs. So how can graduate students and postdocs cultivate leadership and management skills while in training? In this column, I will define these terms and share with you some tips and resources to help develop leadership and management skills.

Leadership vs. management 

Leadership and management skills go hand in hand, but there are differences.

In Kristina Ricketts’ article “Leadership vs. Management,” she defines leadership as a process whereby someone influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal, whereas management means to exercise executive, administrative and supervisory direction of a group or organization. A leader has a vision and knows how to inspire, motivate and energize people. A leader is creative, confident and charismatic. In contrast, a manager’s role is to establish agendas, rules and procedures and to organize, plan and budget to make sure tasks are accomplished in a timely manner. According to Peter G. Northouse, a communication and leadership expert, leadership produces change and movement, and management produces order and consistency.

For more information on the competencies associated with each of these terms, I highly recommend Northouse’s books “Leadership: Concepts and Practice” and “Leadership: Theory and Practice.” Ricketts also provides a list of characteristics and behaviors associated with effective leaders and managers.

People management  

Whether you plan to lead and manage an academic research group or a team in industry or elsewhere, working with people and influencing them are responsibilities that you must take seriously. Knowing how to manage people effectively is an important skill, and one that can easily be acquired if you are willing to learn.

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