Recap: The Inaugural ASIP Leadership Academy

By Vik Meadows, PhD and Daisy Shu, PhD

Last fall, we attended the inaugural ASIP Leadership Academy (October 2-4, 2022) and had a blast. The workshop was held at The Hilton Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Rockville, MD where all of the attendees stayed, so it was as easy as waking up and making our way down the elevators to the workshop. There was a dynamic group of around 20 participants at all different career stages—from PhD students to entry level academic faculty positions. Over the course of the 3-day event, we really got to know each other and became a true cohort.

Our amazing leadership coaches included Heather Evans and Jennifer Scott from the Catalyst of Awesomeness, who utilized a curriculum that was developed in conjunction with Dr. Deb Elbaum. Dr. Elbaum also conducted follow-up 1-on-1 and group post-academy follow-up sessions. In addition to Heather and Jennifer, the training event included a group of fantastic faculty facilitators, including Dr. Patricia D’Amore (Harvard University), Dr. Cecilia Yates (University of Pittsburgh), Dr. Robinna Lorenz (Genentech), Dr. Kari Nejak-Bowen (University of Pittsburgh), Dr. Richard Mitchell (Harvard University), and Dr. Satdarshan (Paul) Singh Monga (University of Pittsburgh), along with the ASIP Team, Dr. William B. Coleman, Dr. Chhavi Chauhan, Lisa McFadden, and Chelsea Broschart.

The event provided the opportunity for the attendees to get to know and network with the faculty and ASIP staff. We got an awesome goodie bag with lots of ASIP merch, a Leadership Academy workbook (that we got to keep!), and books on leadership. 

Some key topics covered in the workshop included:

  1. Developing a Mentor Map
    In our small group discussions with Dr. Yates, we learned about developing a mentor map which is such a handy tool to figure out who serves as your mentor for different facets of your career from professional development to scientific expertise or emotional support. We are both looking to fill out all the gaps in our mentor maps and see how they change over the course of our careers.
  2. Stress Management
    Managing stress is essential for good leadership to ensure we have clear thinking for good decision making. We noted how our bodies can manifest stress and recognized that we have a choice in how we choose to feel. By taking time out to breathe, stretch, or go for a walk, we can shift how we feel and think ourselves into a better state of mind. One exercise Daisy started doing more of was practicing gratitude by writing down three things that she’s grateful for each day. Vik has enjoyed taking 3-5 deep belly breaths during times of stress. It’s amazing how much calmer your body gets just by focused breathing!
  3. Leadership Styles
    We discussed different leadership styles including authentic, servant, and inclusive leaders. We all reflected on the leadership attributes we admire and as a group described what sorts of attributes that we saw in great leaders in our lives. The workshop created an inclusive environment of belonging that allowed us to feel respected and also celebrated individual differences, allowing everyone to participate. No single leadership style is the correct one—we were given tools on how to be authentic leaders while still meeting the needs of our respective communities!
  4. Empathetic Listening
    We partnered up and practiced our active listening skills by taking turns being the listener. It’s amazing what you can pick up when you’re intentionally focused on listening. Actively listening to the speaker and then repeating with “I heard you say…” helps both the speaker and listener decipher the true message intended. We definitely plan to incorporate more active and empathetic listening into our daily lives
  5. Question Storming
    When we are stressed and trying to find solutions to our problems, it is difficult to think of the right question(s) to ask. We learned how to generate curious and innovative questions, following a prompt, to promote curiosity and collaboration to solve problems! We also learned that question storming requires evaluation of your questions, since some questions are unanswerable without some edits for specificity and to focus on themes.
  6. Peer Coaching
    As early career scientists, mentorship and peer coaching tend to go hand-in-hand. We learned how to lead and help others, while mitigating our stress, to provide a present and authentic experience for both the mentor and mentee. It is very difficult to make good decisions, much less to help others make good decisions, while undergoing a stress response. By shifting reactivity to responding, and utilizing the stress management mentioned earlier, we can be present and help our peers. Collaboration is very important, and it can be very successful when all parties are actively engaged in a supportive manner.
  7. Networking
    We reflected on the importance of networking, not just in science, but in all facets of our lives as leaders. It takes continuous communication and interactions to keep a network alive and useful. It is important to remember that increasing your network is not just for yourself, but others as well. For example, you may be a useful collaborator or resource for a fellow scientist or colleague. Networking will help you articulate your value, and the Leadership Academy helped us learn how to do so in an authentic way.
  8. Defining Our Strengths
    One of our most exciting activities was identifying our strengths and making it our tagline! It is always easy to understate our strengths and consider your successes to be dependent on chance or luck, but this can diminish your value and self-esteem. We learned how to recognize our strengths and be proud of them! Vik is great at delegating. She can make group work very easy because she knows how to recognize people’s strengths and can assign tasks that align with those strengths. Daisy’s strength is in inclusivity and building a community which is demonstrated in her strong networking skills.

Attending the Leadership Academy was life-altering. We connected with the other attendees and have joined a network of scientists that are working towards an inclusive and supportive science community. We recommend that you attend this workshop to help you understand and enhance your leadership style!