I wrote this to myself in 2013 as a research scientist pondering moving away from work where success is measured by publications, and toward having a bigger impact by embracing the people-connecting and knowledge-sharing work that always came naturally.
Reading this nine years later, I’m struck by how much I agree with myself.
Trust your own ideas
Trust your own opinion
Trust your own confidence
You have experience and expertise - do not underestimate or undervalue these. Use them. This is where your ideas and opinions come from (they do not arise as random thoughts out of the ether).
Put yourself out there - e.g. with an opinion or idea - and don't quickly retract it just because others don't immediately jump on your bandwagon. Understand that you've had time to get comfortable with an idea but others might need time/justification/more info to be able to understand and get comfortable with it. Some people will still not agree. Be ok with that.
Other people look up to you as much as you look up to others. It's ok to let people look up to you. That doesn't mean you will be seen as egotistical. People are comforted and empowered by strong leadership.
Share what you REALLY think while being respectful
Be proud that the buck stops with you.
Let people help.
Let people help in their own way. They too are experts.
A good leader lets people help because you can only have a limited impact if you try to do everything yourself. Remember, you’re trying to unite people and build on their strengths in order to have the best possible outcome, no matter the goal. As you know, people excel at things they are excited by/passionate about.
Give people opportunities to try out new skills or work on something/a project that will help them develop new skills.
Find ways to enable people to develop/enhance their skills. This means helping them find the time, money and evaluate options for advanced training. This can be as simple as encouraging someone to go to a free seminar slightly outside their field of expertise. Make sure this happens in an egalitarian manner. Pay attention to those who do not ask for things; it does not mean they don’t wish for things. Offer them options and opportunities.
Engage with HR to employ best practices.
Think before you speak. Take time to formulate what you are going to say. If you're a leader, you're hoping/expecting that people are listening, so make your message as clear as possible. Communicate thoughts with a start, middle and end (quit leaving out the start!…or the end!). Ask whether you have been clear. Ask what people interpret from what you’ve said.
Be ok with the fact that not all stakeholders will be ok with every leadership decision you make. But maybe when you take action based on a good decision that has support of less than 100%, decisions might ultimately be seen as a good thing when people get to see the product of that good leadership decision.
Signal amplification: Hear what people say/think. Bring out other people's good ideas; help them be heard; let them know you hear them. Translate their ideas to be heard by a wider audience/the right audience. Connect them with the right audience so they can communicate their ideas directly. Avoid mediating discussions when you should get out of the way…but listen to those discussions and know where to facilitate.
Cite your references: Give credit where credit is due. At the same time, don't give all the credit away. Own your good ideas … and the bad ones.
Use groovy science terms as analogies ;-)
Get clarification for things you don't understand or don't think you agree with. Take time to digest ideas that you don't immediately understand/relate to/agree with.
Pay attention to people with experience.
Pay attention to people who are naïve.
Both bring valuable perspectives.
Consider how your decisions will have an impact on people at all levels of execution. Help people understand how things are connected from conception to execution and maintenance.
Take time to listen to people who disagree with you. It doesn't mean you're wrong. Is your message clear enough? Is it clear to all stakeholders? Ask someone who disagrees to explain, with specifics. Can you improve X by taking into account their Y? Maybe you really are wrong. It’s easy to admit this.
Does a naysayer’s comment reflect harsh reality or are they just tired/jaded?
Engage people who feel tired/jaded. How to do this? What is tiring them out? Help them find a way out of that box.
People are different.
Be aware of people's different learning styles and communication styles.
Don't expect everyone to look engaged at all times. Everyone has their own life/excitement/stresses/challenges/way of being. Figure out how to engage people who are not as enthusiastic or idealistic as I am. People need to work from their own comfort zone.
Watch out for stakeholder fatigue. Give people time to do their work. Don’t spend too much time talking about doing stuff. Let them do their stuff.
Have a sense of humour. Set a good example with laughter. It’s just life after all, isn’t it?