Shaking up the World of Higher Education

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With free online education gaining attention in The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and at Cornell University at an event where Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera will be speaking, how this modality will shake up the world of higher education remains to be seen.

Cousera originally launched with a handful of courses and a few partnering universities, over just months, it has grown to offer over 100 specialized courses and is increasing its list of partnerships.

Some of Coursera’s partner schools include: University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, Caltech, Duke, Princeton, Johns Hopkins University, and University of Virginia, and they just added 17 more partners. Coursera has also partnered with universities in Scotland, Switzerland, Canada, and India, making it a platform for a truly global education.

While virtual learning has been available in certain forms over the past few years, Coursera’s class formats take advantage of the latest technological advances, giving the website an edge. Courses include a mixture of white-board style talks, professor’s narration, and interactive quizzes interspersed at content check-points in order to maintain students’ engagement with the material.

In her intriguing TED talk “What We’re Learning from Online Education,” Koller describes how a digital format is more effective than traditional learning. Koller believes lecture halls are conducive for passive learning. For example when she asks a question during a lecture, many students are still scribbling notes, others are on Facebook, and maybe one student blurts out the answer prematurely.

Online classes are less uniform than lectures. Material can be broken down into manageable chunks of information. Quizzes interspersed at key points can help ensure that students have understood core concepts before moving forward.

Additional benefits are that online class enrollment can span tens of thousands of students, enabling Professors to widely spread their ideas, even internationally. For example, Ng has said that his largest on-campus class consisted of 400 students, compared with 100,000 people who signed up for one of his online offerings. To reach that sized audience at Stanford, he would have to teach for 250 years.

Koller highlights another advantage which is that online courses allow for the collection of data that is not available in lecture hall formats. Data, such as the amount of time students spend on each question can allow professors to further improve their courses.

There are of course kinks that Coursera still needs to work out. For example certain subjects are easy to test online with multiple choice questions. However, with more humanities courses being offered, other styles of evaluation are needed.

Others have looked at the model and questioned the viability of traditional higher education institutions. For example, one article in Forbes draws an analogy to what Craigslist has done to classified advertising in newspapers and what Wikipedia has done to encyclopedias.

At the same time, such comparisons are still premature as the website currently offers only certificates of course completion, not a full degree. And it is still uncertain whether these certificates actually carry much weight in the job market.

For the time being, Coursera has created a global network for idea-sharing and can help people gain knowledge that they want. As the format progresses, Koller believes we can expedite innovation, discover hidden talent from remote parts of the globe, and establish education as a fundamental right.

Photo credit: ted.com

Just be Anxious Enough

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(photo credit www.time.com)

All of us are familiar enough with that rush of adrenaline that starts a series of reactions in our bodies when pressure comes knocking at the door. Whether provoked by a large audience, a tight deadline, or simply a hectic day, our conscience knows when internal and external stimuli arouse our senses and affect our bodily functioning.

While at all levels, anxiety stimulates the mind and affects health, it is clear that the physical effects of anxiety are naturally more pronounced on some than on others.

Knowing that there is a good side and a bad side to stress is really nothing new. In grade school, many of us learn about “eustress” or the kind of anxiety that can enhance one’s cognition and make an individual more alert to surroundings and observant of risks.

We distinguish this from “distress,” or the bad side of anxiety that can cause release of hormones that constrict blood vessels, raise blood pressure, and speed up breathing rate, heart rate, and metabolism. Consequently, while some people react to anxiety with physical symptoms such as sweating, pain, and nervousness, others feel only subtle effects.

An article published earlier this year in Time Magazine entitled “Why Anxiety is Good for You” drew attention to some of the new science behind anxiety. It analyzed the neurochemical and hormonal changes associated with stress and how they relate to chronic stress disorders that plague many Americans. For example, when the body experiences too much arousal, it can lead to panic disorders, weaker immune functions, high blood pressure, and digestive issues.

While in the short-run most individuals can come up with tactics for coping with various levels of anxiety, it is especially important for people to think about the long-run and make sure that their body is handling a manageable amount of stimulating anxiety, and not debilitating itself with too much distress.

Many psychologists have long relied on a bell-shaped model of a stress curve that indicates that each person has their own peak, which represents the ideal amount of stress they can controllably handle. Beyond that point, the body becomes overloaded and exhausted.

Knowing how your own body handles pressure and being honest about the level at which you react negatively to anxiety can help immensely. It can help you to pick out which type of projects to take on, and which tasks to delegate to others who are naturally better at handling the stresses of particular situations.

Striving to maintain healthy levels of anxiety is the best way to guarantee long-term physical and mental strength and alertness. Hence, success will not always result from trying to outdo others. Our bodies thank us for staying calm and making decisions that are smart and balanced. So keep in mind, all you really need to do is just be anxious enough.

Do Women Go For It?

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Certain companies have been making efforts to diversify the composition of their higher management. For example, Google has implemented a policy whereby individuals can nominate themselves for a promotion if they feel that they are ready. The company hopes that such policies will impel competent male and female employees to seek out challenging positions.

However, one problem companies are finding is that despite adopting policies that are designed to be equitable to employees of any sex, they are not always used equally. Specifically regarding the policy of self-promotion at Google, behavioral differences between male and female employees cause the policy to be drastically underused by women. Hence, the problem of stratification in management still exists.

In a recent interview for the Wall Street Journal, Laszlo Bock the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google discussed the behavioral trends he has noticed in women at Google. He believes that differences in the way women behave on teams and in interviews helps explain why they underuse policies such as self-promotion.

According to company data, Google has consistently found that women are undeniable assets on collaborative team projects and that management performs better when it is composed of a mix of men and women. However, the data also indicates that women are reluctant to nominate themselves for promotions until long after they are actually ready for advancement.

In Bock’s experience, men generally seem to have some percent chance of being promoted once they nominate themselves. On the other hand, when women nominate themselves, they almost always receive the promotion, and often could have attained it up to a year before.

What such patterns imply is that to a certain degree, women are holding themselves back from valuable opportunities. The issue is even more complex when one considers the factors that influence women’s behavior.

Although it is possible that women are consciously avoiding challenges they do not desire to take on, Bock believes that the external culture in which women operate influences women’s confidence and decisions indirectly.

Women’s behavior in the corporate world is molded by years of social conditioning that has encouraged women to be humble and less hard-edged than men. Consequently, women behave in accordance with what is most accepted of them. Oftentimes, this means less speaking up, less questioning authority, and less self-recognition.

The question that remains is: What can companies do in order to propel more women into higher management positions while still maintaining policies that are fair and equitable to all employees?

If solid policies, such as self-promotion are already in place, and they are not adequately funneling ready candidates into advanced job placements, then the social context in which men and women operate is of paramount importance.

If the social context fails to endorse behavior that companies have created expectations for, then even the most favorable policies will never be used fruitfully. This could be a disincentive for other companies to adopt similar procedures. Maybe it should be up to the companies that have adopted promising policies for leadership development to remind their women not to miss out and to go for it!

How to Stay Humble

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As discussed in a previous article, Don’t Let Hubris Be Your Downfall, arrogance and overconfidence can lead to the demise of many leaders. So what should leaders do if they start to go down the wrong path and feel they are losing touch with their humility? Following a few pieces of key advice can make all the difference between a leader who is disliked and must worry about maintaining authority and one who thrives with employees’ admiration and respect.

1. Stay in touch with employees in all levels of the company.

Staying in touch with employees at different levels of the company is really important as it showcases well-rounded involvement with the company and enhances presence. It is also a direct way to detect real problems that are happening throughout the company early. To implement, it can be as simple as regularly visiting other office floors and sites.

2. Go into nature

Many classic poets and novelists knew this secret. Nature can have a powerful humbling effect on the mind. When leaders spend a great deal of time reigning over their man-made kingdom, it helps to get out and see the parts of nature that are more powerful than what they have created. One can take a weekend hiking trip or catch views of a powerful waterfall.

3. Spend time with family and people who like you for you

Along with success comes the presence of opportunists. Sometimes it’s hard to stay grounded when surrounded by people who just want to flatter and praise in order to extract something. It is really important to spend time with family, pets, friends from college, or any people who are more interested in quality time than what you can do for them.

4. Do some hands-on philanthropy

Many leaders are generous and supportive of a multitude of causes. Going out and doing real philanthropy hands-on is another experience. Even if the monetary donation is not high, hands-on charity work has a powerful humbling effect and allows one to appreciate all that one has.

5. Consider moving your office location

Several CEOs have described the benefits of moving their offices to more centralized and accessible locations. Like staying in touch with all employees by moving around, central office locations increase visibility and give other employees the feeling that the leader is directly involved in all company matters.

6. Create systems of checks and balances

One of the best ways to stay humble is to keep your opinions in check. A leader can do this by surrounding himself with people who maintain company values. Limit absolute powers so that several knowledgeable people are involved in making important decisions.

7. Encourage dissent

Maybe it sounds good to hear everyone agree with your views, but how many novel solutions are you really going to come up with if you do not encourage employees to digress? A humble leader knows that having a great idea is not an exclusive act. Besides, ideas are usually enhanced when everyone is encouraged to speak up.

8. Admit and fix mistakes

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you made a mistake. In fact, admitting that as a leader, you still make mistakes is admitting that you are human and real. It is one of the best ways to stay humble as proud leaders are less likely to ever admit that they were wrong.

9. Treat everyone with respect

It is easy to blame people when they make mistakes and ignore achievements of different employees. It is much more fruitful to forgive people for their mistakes, and provide mentorship and motivation so they fix their own errors. Forgiveness and respect go a long way in making you well-liked.

10. Don’t lose the traits that got you there in the first place

Many leaders change their working style once they attain a certain position. However, if the skills that led to your success include things like the ability to collaborate, then it does not make much sense to suddenly become a one-person act. Remember which traits directly contributed to your success, then work on honing those skills, not abandoning them.

Don’t let Hubris be your Downfall

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Features, Proactive Leaders | One Comment

The media has long tried to warn us not to take success for granted. If you have not already taken the queue from Gordon Gecko’s famous portrayal of greed-gone-wrong in the Wall Street movie series, pick up your classic copy of Oedipus Rex, or re-read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar or Macbeth.

What these modern movies, classic tragedies, and iconic plays all have in common is the tragic downfall of a protagonist who succumbs to weaknesses of his own. In traditional Greek, the operative term applied to such characters was “hubris” or overconfidence. Though conceived when the ancient Greek plays were transcribed, the word still applies to many modern leaders.

It is not surprising that when individuals reach extraordinary heights of success, they often lose touch with reality. The media frequently criticizes leaders who display too much pride, seem overly arrogant, or come off as seriously narcissistic. Less elaborately discussed is the gradual process by which these undesirable traits directly lead to the demise of their possessors.

It is important to discuss the symptoms of hubristic leaders so that it is easy to identify such individuals. It is also important to establish that not all confident leaders are presumptuous, and confidence alone is not a blameworthy characteristic. The danger is when after getting to the top, certain leaders start to become narcissistic, which can be blinding and detrimental to themselves and employees.

Certain industries are designed in a way that breeds leaders who think they are always right. Companies that reward the most confident and vocal employees with better opportunities, increased visibility, and company benefits incentivize their workers to adopt aggressive characteristics. With such incentives, it is no wonder that by the time individuals gain prestige, they feel they deserve it because they adapted themselves and paid their dues.

So how do we determine the point when pride and conscientiousness transforms into overconfidence, ignorance, and arrogance?

1.  When a leader starts ignoring the advice and opinions of others. Hence, they often prefer isolation, or act rude and brash when hearing suggestions out of line with their views.

2.  Another revealing act is when leaders overuse company perks for their own personal benefits. This often reflects a sense of entitlement and indestructibility.

3. Because of their inflated sense of superiority, leaders plagued by hubris often repeat actions long after they have stopped being effective. Either they are stuck in their outdated ways and have been ignoring relevant new trends, or they simply think they can get away with anything without being detected. Take the great fraud schemes of Enron and Bernie Madoff.

Despite years of warnings from movies and literature, it seems that certain leaders are still prone to go down a slippery path of self-destruction. Therefore, no matter how high the walls of success may be,  leaders need to keep their egos in check and their feet on the ground. After years of hard work, leaders should enjoy their success, but not let hubris be their downfall.

10 Most Powerful Women in Business

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1)      Marissa Mayer– President and CEO of Yahoo Inc.

At age 37, Mayer is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, and also the first to take such a position while expecting. Prior to Yahoo, Mayer was a distinguished employee at Google where she was the first female engineer and 20th employee hired in 1999. A self-proclaimed geek, Mayer specializes in artificial intelligence. During her 13-year run at Google, she oversaw the launch and development of many of Google’s iconic products, and is credited for the clean look of Google.com.

2)      Indra Nooyi– CEO of PepsiCo Inc.

Currently leading a global enterprise with annual revenue of $39 billion, Nooyi was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on the coast of southern India. After procuring undergraduate and master’s degrees in India, she went against her parent’s wishes and moved to the U.S. to study management at Yale University. Since joining PepsiCo in 1994, Nooyi partook in critical decisions, such as the company’s moves to shed Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in 1997. She also helped orchestrate the company’s $3 billion acquisition of Tropicana in 1998 and $14 billion takeover of Quaker Oats. After net profit more than doubled, she became the company’s 5th CEO in 2007.

3)      Irene Rosenfeld– CEO of Kraft Foods

Rosenfeld has been involved in the food and beverage industry for about 30 years and spent most of her professional life at Kraft. Prior to Kraft, Rosenfeld had nearly a decade-long stint at Cornell University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in psychology, an MS in Business Administration, and a PhD in marketing and statistics. When Rosenfeld presented research to General Foods showing that Kool-Aid commercials should be marketed directly to kids, the pitch won her a job working full-time at the brand, a rare offer for a researcher. She also served as CEO of Frito-Lay for two years before she was appointed CEO of Kraft Foods.

4)      Jill Abramson-Executive Editor of The New York Times

Serving in the highest ranking position in the Times’ newsroom, Abramson is forging a path for women of all ages while overseeing The New York Times report in all its various forms. She is the first woman to hold this position in the newspaper’s 160 year history. Prior to being named executive editor, she was the Times’ managing director, a post from which she helped supervise the coverage of two wars, four national elections, hurricanes, and oil spills. Before joining the Times, she covered money and politics for The Wall Street Journal.

5)      Sheryl Sandberg– COO Facebook Inc.

After attending Harvard Business School, Sandberg worked as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company and served as chief of staff for the United States Department of the Treasury. She served as Vice President of Global Online Sales & Operations at Google Inc. until 2008. In 2007, co-founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg met Sandberg and found her a perfect fit for the role of COO. She has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook since 2008. In June 2012, she was also elected to the board of directors by the existing board members, becoming the first woman to serve on its board.

6)      Amy Pascal– Co-Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures

Along with her Co-Chairman Michael Lynton, Pascal oversees all lines of business for the studio, including Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. Under Pascal’s leadership, Sony Pictures has had 79 movies open to #1 at the domestic box office, more than any other studio. The company has sustained success with movies such as the Men in Black and Spider-Man series and TV shows such as the Dr. Oz Show and Days of our Lives. Pascal was honored with the Crystal Award in 2001 by Women in Film for helping to expand the role of women in the entertainment industry.

7)      Anne Sweeney– Co-Chair of Disney Media Networks & President of Disney/ABC Television Group Frequently named the “Most Powerful Woman in Entertainment” by The Hollywood Reporter, Sweeney propelled the company into the digital era. It was the first group in the industry to leverage iTunes, introduce an ad-supported full episode player online, and deliver an application for the iPad. Sweeney’s leadership enables the group to combine high-quality content with cutting-edge distribution platforms, and deliver compelling news and entertainment to millions globally. Sweeney has been inducted into Cable Center’s Hall of Fame, Broadcasting & Cable’s Hall of Fame, and the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement.

8)      Ursula Burns– CEO of Xerox Corporation

As the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company, Burns was raised by a single immigrant mother in a low-income and crime-ridden New York City housing project. A wizard with numbers, Burns worked her way through school and defied teachers who encouraged a traditional career in nursing or teaching. After completing graduate school at Columbia University, Burns first worked for Xerox as a summer intern. Throughout her 20s she worked at Xerox in various roles in product development while slowly rising through the ranks. She was named CEO of the $17 billion industry in July 2009.

9)      Meg Whitman President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard

Always confident and bright, Whitman graduated high school in only three years, attended Princeton University, and received her MBA from Harvard. She served as an executive at high-profile companies such as DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble, and Hasbro. She also served as the Vice President of Strategic Planning at The Walt Disney Company. From 1998-2008, she served as President and CEO of eBay, during which she oversaw expansion from 30 employees and $4 million in annual revenue to more than 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue. In 2009, Whitman lost a political race to be the next governor of California, but was tapped shortly after to be CEO of computer-giant Hewlett-Packard.

10)  Virginia Rometty– President and CEO of IBM

Always fascinated by electronics and graduating from Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Rometty spent the bulk of her professional career working her way up the IBM ladder. In 2002, Rometty emerged on the executive radar when she advised IBM’s Board of Directors to purchase the big business consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting for $3.5 billion. Since becoming the first woman to serve as CEO of IBM, Rometty has spearheaded IBM’s growth strategy by getting the company into the cloud computing and analytics businesses.

Yahoo takes the Lead

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In an industry-defining moment, Marissa Mayer taking on the position as Yahoo’s new CEO marks the youngest CEO to head a Fortune 500 Company, and the first woman to take on the role while expecting.

More than anything, it is the symbolic aspect of this event that makes the story so compelling. Only 37 years old, Mayer has already proven that she has the credentials for the post. Since joining Google in 1994, she has been an engineer, designer, product manager, and key spokesperson for the company. She held key roles in Google Search, Google Images, Google News, Google Maps, Google Books, Google Product Search, Google Toolbar, iGoogle, and Gmail. She also oversaw the layout of Google’s famous search homepage.

Many industry experts were surprised to hear Yahoo’s choice for the young new leader of the company. To couple the news, hours after Yahoo’s public announcement, Mayer sent out the now-famous tweet that she will soon be expecting a baby boy.

Yahoo’s move makes a bold statement in a season when the debate on female leadership and work-life balance has taken center-stage since the publishing of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” A former director of policy planning at the State Department, Slaughter has become a central critic of the inflexible work culture that she claims made juggling high-profile government work along with raising two sons near-impossible, and led her to step down from her government post.

In recent years, Yahoo has been struggling to define itself as a relevant internet directory and search engine. Perhaps then, the company has decided to boldly begin its process of transformation in the spirit of progress.  When Mayer revealed her pregnancy to Yahoo’s Board of Directors last month, she claimed that no one raised any concerns, which implies Yahoo’s evolved thinking. She has also stated that she plans to take no more than a couple of weeks off for maternity leave and will work through it from home.

Many women are analyzing Mayer’s decision in light of the struggle for work-life balance. While some criticize her as a poor role-model for working women, many others hail her for embracing two challenges at once. Mayer herself seems to indicate that she simply prefers to stay in the rhythm of things. In any light, Mayer certainly has her work cut out for her in upcoming months.

Between a company that has many problems to fix and a woman who is supremely intelligent and eager to take on the task, one can hope this leadership transition marks the start of a synergetic relationship, as well as a cultural shift for women executives.

Today’s Attention Gap, Tomorrow’s Leadership Gap?

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Every year the Aspen Ideas Festival gathers leading thinkers from around the globe to discuss the latest ideas of what makes a good society. This year, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam along with his team, presented new data about a starkly widening opportunity gap, as well as some unexpected education and lifestyle trends associated with it.

Most people are broadly aware of the wealth divide between families who live in poverty and those who come from a culture of affluence. The correlation between classes that have less money and their restricted access to educational and work opportunities is generally understood and implicitly accepted as natural.

However, Putnam’s new findings add a psychological dimension to current knowledge of inequality. More than race and poverty, he examines the increasing gap in class and social mobility, which stem from attitude differences of lower strata parents and higher strata parents. These behavioral trends imply disturbing implications for the future.

In a recent New York Times article (The Opportunity Gap), David Brooks discusses some of Putnam’s principle findings. Looking back at the investments that parents make in their children’s earliest years, Brooks highlights the amount of time affluent parents invest in their children’s futures through activities such as reading to them when they are toddlers, explaining their jobs to them, and cheering them on during extracurricular activities.

Then there is the monetary investment that affluent parents make in “enrichment activities.” Compared to children of less-affluent parents, children of wealthy parents are much more likely to partake in tutoring, after-school sports, activities such as music and community service, and religious services that their parents are readily willing to invest in.

In lower strata communities, more children are born out of wedlock. Single parents are unable to find the time and resources to make similar investments in their children’s futures, and their children feel more pessimistic, detached, and uninspired to push themselves to their full potential.

Naturally, children who feel limited by their parents and major social institutions have a diminished sense of purpose and responsibility. It is no wonder that as a consequence, these children’s test scores lag and more doors begin to close for them.

However, as Putnam and Brooks both indicate, if we want more leadership that is representative of our entire society, it is important that we encourage individuals from all rungs of society to reach their highest potential. This means that reformers may need to embrace some uncomfortable changes to ensure that less-affluent kids have a better shot at making it to the top.

While Brooks points to policies such as banning childrearing before marriage and tax cuts for the wealthy, certain educationalists feel that he neglects to address central changes that need to be enacted in the public school systems. For example, some suggest greater implementation of “no excuse” learning models that place high expectations and ambitious academics on low income students, access to digital learning opportunities, performance-based funding that is driven towards kids with more risk factors, and more structural support systems built into communities that need them.

Certainly it will require a combination of sociopolitical changes as well as education reform to truly address the bleak prospects for bottom-quartile children. Putnam’s new data provides an ominous prediction of society’s future if no changes are enacted. So unless we want today’s opportunity gap to become tomorrow’s ambition gap and develop into a continual leadership gap, maybe we ought to start brainstorming some creative solutions.

How Important Is Natural Talent?

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In a recent article written in the Wall Street Journal, author Heidi Grant Halvorson tries to dispel the “Success Myth.”

So what is this myth about? According to her research, it is about how people attribute success and high accomplishments to innate ability or inborn talent. In other words, because most of us believe that there are things we are naturally better at than others, we tend to invest our time in those things that come easily to us and divest our time from things that require more effort.

The problem with this approach is that Halvorson does not buy into the idea that success is really about innate ability in the first place. As a Ph.D. in motivational psychology and an author who essentially studies achievement for a living, she repeatedly finds that measures of “ability” such as intelligence, creativity, and IQ are quite poor predictors of future success.

According to her findings, the real predictor of success is strategizing. Strategies like being committed, recognizing temptations, planning ahead, monitoring progress, and persisting when the going gets tough, are amongst those that she claims make all the difference between success and failure.

Thinking that success is contingent on innate ability can lead down a slippery slope and unnecessarily become a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Buy into her theory? If so, read about in her own words: “The Success Myth

Leaders in Science: Are we Forgetting Them?

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Every year, when Time compiles its list of the “100 Most Influential People,” of the year, recipients are categorized as a Mogul, a Breakout, an Icon, a Pioneer, or a Leader. What is perplexing is that by categorizing them, there seems to be a degree mutual exclusivity. But does it hold that if a prominent scientist is categorized as a Pioneer, he is unable to be an Icon, a Breakout, or a Leader?

Is there something about the way that we define leadership that prevents us from viewing masterminds of scientific discoveries as leaders unless they found a company or run for election? Or is there a personality we expect a leader to embody, perhaps a way of dressing, communicating, and presenting ideas that we do not typically find from those individuals used to running experiments or publishing textbooks?

Certainly, it is unlikely that a leader of science would ever lead troops onto battlefield or run for public office, but don’t leaders of science perform many of the actions that effective business and political leaders do? Scientists create new and innovative ideas, work relentlessly at gathering support for them so that they can further their development, and when there is a breakthrough, they often shape the entire direction of an industry.

Scientists, such as Edward Jenner who invented the Smallpox vaccine, Robert Edwards who developed the process of in vitro fertilization, or Louis S. Goodman and Alfred Gilman who developed the basis of chemotherapy revolutionized the field of science and the magnitude of human health.  Despite eradicating disease and changing the destiny of infertility and cancer, their names are probably not the first that spring to mind when thinking about “great leaders.”

If our modern concept of leadership is contingent upon the ability for an individual to portray a charismatic personality, communicate vocally, or run a company, then perhaps we ought to challenge how we define the concept, or else create an effort to equip these great scientific minds with the tools and techniques they need so that they too can be recognized as public leaders.

There does seem to be observable effort in the field of leadership training to target leaders of Science. A recent article in Seed magazine describes a group that provides additional training in communication and leadership for scientists by launching programs such as the Science and Public Leadership Fellows program. While many of the candidates of the program are already recognized as leaders in sciences and hold distinctions such as being MacArthur Award winners, NSF Career winners, and PECASE winners, the program focuses on trying to build their reputation as credible general public leaders.

There is promise that the emergence of similar programs can help us to increase public recognition of influential individuals who transformed society and were revolutionaries of a different type. If the individuals who invented the atomic bomb, created vaccinations, allowed test tube conceptions, and developed chemotherapy treatment are not publicly recognized, then we may be at fault for continuing to forget some of the world’s most powerful leaders.