Leadership Skills: How to Build a Research Team
The following case scenarios show how leadership challenges can be handled effectively. The cases provide useful tools for mentors and information how to best pass on such knowledge to their mentees.
- Different leadership styles
- Your mentee is an "absent leader"
- Understanding discovery and authorship
- Mentee has to share resources with advisor
- Improve efficiency of lab meetings
- Perception of lacking authority
- Advice on hiring and salary
- How to build a research team
- Mentee needs help resolving a conflict with data collection staff
- No funding for post doctoral studies in your budget
- Defining Leadership
- Your mentee is not meeting expected tasks and developmental timelines
Leadership Skills: How to Build a Research Team
Different leadership styles
You are a mentor to a newly hired junior faculty member, who is to coordinate another faculty's research project as well as develop his/her own research interests. His/her new faculty person is replacing a previous junior faculty member. The previous and now the new faculty member have different management/leadership styles. Neither is better than the other, they are just different. However, some staff members are not happy with the new faculty member's style. What advice would you give the mentee?
Your mentee is an "absent leader"
Your mentee is having a hard time finding and keeping qualified staff. Reviews indicate that your mentee is an "absent leader". How would you coach the mentee about their style and the need to change it (or find staff who like that style)?
Understanding discovery and authorship
Your mentee comes to you for advice about a situation. After working on a project for several years, s/he found what s/he thought was her discovery published under the name of her advisor. Her/his contribution was acknowledged in a footnote. It appears that while s/he was working on the project s/he assumed s/he would be the lead author, but she never did confirm that assumption with her/his advisor.
Mentee has to share resources with advisor
Funds have become quite tight in your mentee's research group and the mentee and his advisor now have to share research resources, including staff, supplies, and space. What advice would you give the mentee to ensure resources are protected?
Improve efficiency of lab meetings
Your mentee complains that lab meetings in her research group feel unfocused and issues related to the project are never resolved. What advice would you give this mentee about leading meetings?
Perception of lacking authority
Your mentee is a new faculty member and has started his/her own research group right out of fellowship. Your mentee wants to be on equal terms/friends with the grad students and postdocs in the group in part because s/he doesn't feel that s/he has the authority to be a leader in a different style. However, s/he is finding that the students are not taking her seriously and the goals and needs of the research are not being met. How would you advise him/her to address this?
Advice on hiring and salary
Your mentee is hiring two new grad students/postdocs at the same level for his research group. One of the new trainees has a family and the other is single. Your mentee wants to hire the one with the family at a higher salary because he feels that they will need more resources. However, your mentee's colleagues have suggested that this is not appropriate or ethical and may also lead to morale problems. Your mentee comes to you for advice.
How to build a research team
You have on your research team a masters level student who is working on a research project that will also be part of his master's thesis, for which you have agreed to mentor. He comes highly recommended and has done similar research in the past. The project is under contract with a federal agency and needs to be finished in a timely manner. He starts full time during the summer, and as the summer progresses, it becomes more challenging for him to meet deadlines and produce work. He is also appears to have some challenges in his personal life, which you suspect, but he has not disclosed. The research is at a critical stage, and his activity and productivity has declined to the point where you are not sure that he will complete the work.
How should you proceed as his mentor and as the PI responsible for finishing the research project?
Mentee needs help resolving a conflict with data collection staff
Your mentee was hired to develop the clinical research program for your department, and has recommended implementation of quality assurance protocols for data collection. Data collection staff has resisted this change and the attending physician sides with the staff. What advice can you give to your mentee to resolve this conflict?
No funding for post doctoral studies in your budget
As a mentor, you have been contacted by Sarah who will be defending her doctoral thesis in about nine months. Much of her work is based on your prior publications. She wants to work with your group and receive mentorship from you, with the ultimate goal of securing a faculty appointment at UCSF. After several conversations, and an in-person meeting during a national conference, you see substantial potential, both for Sarah to benefit from working in your group as a postdoctoral fellow, and for your group to benefit from Sarah's insights. You have no funding for postdocs in your budget and there are no appropriate UCSF postdoctoral fellowships for Sarah.
What are the available options for junior investigators like Sarah? What are the pros/cons for each option?
How do you define leadership?
Your mentee is not meeting expected tasks and developmental timelines
Your mentee has a two-year, combined research and clinical fellowship split equally, 50/50. Mentees with this arrangement are encouraged, but not required, to apply for additional funding through NRSA to complete within the first six months of fellowship. As the career mentor and primary clinical supervisor, you meet weekly with your mentee. During the first months of mentorship you notice that your mentee shows early signs of trouble, most notably in that research timelines are not met. Within the first month, feasibility issues were not considered until, you, as the mentor raised them which resulted in a selection of a different target population and clinic. After two months on the study, the mentee showed continued lack of advanced planning in clinical settings by following some instructions and forgetting others. In addition to those concerns, this mentee did not provide constructive feedback in seminars on other participants' written work. Even after four months, the mentee had not yet requested problem prevalence data from the selected clinic.
What suggestions could be made for motivating and helping this mentee to meet expected tasks and timelines?