Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On Research Leader's Necessary Skills

1. What do you think are the most important skills of a research leader and why?

I believe in reflection and that there is no complete or sufficient empirical "grand list" that can address the essentially intuitive nature of good leadership. However I heavily rely upon W. Edwards Deming's insights, yet again, as I wholly trust his nature to populate my thinking as his thoughts are so finely and resolutely formed and shared. These points reside heavily within his " five deadly diseases" and I freely adapt them for my own purposes to answer this question. Curiously, I am also not completely convinced that leadership be justly separated from the principles of quality management. I believe in attempting to separate them we lose some aspects of their intangible qualities (duality or pisces nature) essential to their best practice in an over-desire to analyze for competitive advantage alone where the " yin and yang" of self-improvement of both aspects of leadership and management direction do signal the processes of future successful human progress. I believe we do need more good managers who are leaders and good leaders who are managers. No less and no more.

Therefore a good research leader:

1.Has constancy of purpose, plans for the future, and defines long-term goals.
2. Emphasizes long-term profits, benefits and budgets & sustains goals for growth.
3.Evaluates performance in ways which are just and moralizing to followers, encourages systems & long-term thinking, teamwork and abolishes fear.
4.Deeply commits to the research team, with strong history of association, profound knowledge of the team, understanding & empathizing with their problems and challenges.
5.Leads and manages beyond statistical analysis and seeks to include the unknown and unknowable, creatively deviates from traditional schools of thought and thus becomes distinctive, unique and an intangible asset to the research.
6.Knows how to listen and how to speak and is the team's personable PDCA cipher.

2. Do skills differ with different research streams?

Different streams imply the possibilities of there being different skills for successfully leading in those streams. The leader of a logistics company requires different skills and knowledge than the leader of a cosmetics company. Therefore, I would opine different skills would certainly be required if one sought to transfer from one to the other. Some leaders might be able to cross-over successfully from logistics to cosmetics due to basic leadership/needs similarities on the Pavlovian or Maslowvian hierarchies. Non-complementary streams and the nature of the scope of distances or differences between them would suggest some leaders would not successfully navigate from one to the other. In the cases of comparing cognitive knowing versus affective influencing leadership skills, for example, computer skills versus charisma, one might suggest all leaders do share certain core competencies in the latter rather than the former. Even if one had no charisma other leadership skills might present themselves to make up the difference.

In the human brain there is an affective area of influencing the opinions, decisions and actions of followers through which a leader might mirror precedence, competitors, market conditions, and other examples while neither absolutely knowing the level of follower compliance to suggestive guidance nor what particular stimulus or incentive even provides the best follower compliance. This would suggest that leadership is perhaps at the best of times an acting performance and an ongoing experiment in testing out affective change management to a range of cause and effect possibilities and contexts.

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