Leading Academics: Adair Richards
The University of Birmingham enterprise unit run a course called “Leading Academics“. The description is as follows:
In June 2015 we will be hosting a six-session series which gives doctoral students the opportunity to engage with guest speakers on how they have made it to the top and the issues they face and have overcome, as well as acquiring frameworks and toolkits for their future careers.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend all 6 of the sessions, as lab work for me is reaching its peak, but I had spotted the phrase “Science communicator” in the description of one of the speakers, so I spoke to the organisers and managed to arrange to come along for just one session: the one Adair Richards was presenting.
(To hear more about Adair’s work: go to his TEDx talk – well worth a watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqmPUm54oew)
Arriving halfway through a course is never ideal, but the first exercise was to discuss the most intriguing ideas that had come up from the previous sessions, so I was able to catch up with the key points. The course is about learning what key attributes leaders have, how to recognise the skills that you have, and how to develop yourself to become a successful leader.
We spent some time in groups discussing the definition of leadership, with most coming up with the same key words: influence, inspire, understanding, enabling, integrate, common goal.
Adair then took us through some leadership theories, and I found myself thinking of examples of both good (and not so good) people I had been working with in the past, and how those theories applied to them and the group we had been working in. All the characteristics painted a picture of someone worth respecting, and who you desire to work for. The key point for me was that it became about how you act in a way that means people want to do what you are asking them, and go ahead with their task without feeling directly influenced.
We heard about Adair’s background: of opportunities seized; failures; successes and learning how to be lucky. It was interesting to see how he has guided his career path not by making a goal and working towards it, but more short term decision making based on his basic values. It made me realise the importance of self-assessment, and knowing your own definition of success.
The session ended with his “Top 10 leadership lessons learnt”. From the importance of a good attitude, to the need to keep on learning, all the points made me want to sit down and spend some time thinking more about myself and what I want, rather than my work and where it is taking itself.
A very interesting and engaging session! To the extent that I’m coming back for the next speaker tomorrow…
Thanks to Adair for delivering it, and to the careers network for letting me come along.