14. Apr. 2022

Behind great success are often great leaders. But are great leaders born or made? Researchers across the globe have tried answering this question. They tried to discover whether there’s a genetic component to leadership or if it’s something people learn from a teacher or coach. Researchers concluded that the answer likely involved an element of both – nature and nurture. Most experts agree that exceptional leaders make time to develop their own craft. Good leaders emerge by developing their natural talents, and CEITEC´s new Leadership Policy provides several practical tools that help CEITEC´s leaders to develop their leadership skills and to inspire, develop and empower their team members.

The new Leadership Policy is based on principles of the European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, that was adopted by the European Commission in 2005 to boost researchers' careers. CEITEC MU follows the same goal and strives to ensure high-quality supervision to PhD students and other lab members, and at the same time, to provide supervisors with high-quality training in leadership and managerial skills. The same applies for leaders of administrative departments and their employees.

Why leadership policy matters

In order to effectively move forward towards excellence, one has to have evaluation methods in place. CEITEC has a well-developed evaluation process for research groups, but assessment of the soft indicators such as leadership and mentoring skills has been missing up until now. The new leadership policy offers a systematic annual evaluation focusing on managerial and supervisory performance, as well as complementing the training portfolio offering high-quality courses and workshops tailored for global leaders in science. The new leadership policy is targeting not only research group leaders but all CEITEC MU employees with managerial and supervisory roles, such as core facility heads, heads of administrative departments, and also the CEITEC MU management.

“The aim of the new Leadership Policy is to provide a clear and transparent framework for developing and evaluating competencies and other attributes of a good team leader. We believe that if we keep systematically nurturing our leaders, the whole institute will benefit and eventually even success in science will follow,” explains Nikola Kostlanova, scientific secretary of CEITEC MU and co-author of the new policy.  

Leadership defined

The policy defines the term leadership, sets minimal standards such as binding rules that every leader must obey and provides constructive and realistic recommendations for development towards modern leadership style backed up by social science. It also establishes a transparent and clear evaluation system in the form of annual interviews between representatives of the institute’s management and the team leaders. “This tool should help us to reveal the possible irregularities and shortcomings at the beginning stage, prevent failures in the team's direction, and encourage team leaders to become proactive leaders who are able to inspire others and adjust the sails if needed,” explains deputy director of CEITEC MU Karel Riha.

Leaders at CEITEC MU are responsible not only for ensuring lawful, purposeful, and efficient use of financial resources and assets and compliance with applicable legal regulations but also for managing the work of employees within the scope of their management powers. Leaders at CEITEC should also be taking care of the expert and professional development of their team members, and conceptual development of their laboratories or administrative departments. All this in alliance with the strategic plan of the institution. Strategic and systematic professional development of the leaders and their team members is the most crucial new element, which this policy is offering.

Leadership at CEITEC MU includes further activities defined along leadership areas, concerning gender equality, diversity, and equal opportunity principles grounded in the "Code of Scientific Conduct and Research Integrity", which are obligatory for all CEITEC MU employees. Expectations from various types of leaders are further grouped according to the leaders’ level of seniority and specific training is offered for each particular seniority level.

Building functioning and engaged teams

The essential role of a team leader is to build a functioning team with engaged members who identify themselves with the goals and priorities set by the leader, which are at the same time aligned with the institutional goals. To achieve this, leaders need to possess a variety of important skills. They need to know how to set the right team composition, they need to apply various communication methods to keep team members informed, engaged and motivated, and many other things that contribute to the effective management of a team. Each leader should also ensure that everybody in the team has a good understanding of what is expected from him/her and to be aware of the institute's internal goals, priorities and rules. The new leadership policy also provides a definition of proper supervision of PhD students and proper care of postdoctoral researchers.

In addition to the duties of the leaders towards their subordinates, they also have an essential role in shaping institutional culture, standards, values, and strategies. Therefore, although the capacity of the team leaders should be preferentially devoted to the scientific issues, it is expected that they will be engaged during strategic decisions and participate in important discussions introduced by the institute's management.

“Experience from the first few years of the HR Excellence in Research Award implementation showed us how essential group leaders are in terms of building a good working environment and bringing new policies to life. The way leaders lead and the internal culture they establish within their team is one of the most important factors influencing an employee’s satisfaction,” explains head of the director’s office Eliska Handlirova.

A leader’s contribution to the shaping of the institutional culture and to nurturing the local scientific community is therefore another important factor of good leadership. Leaders are expected to inspire their team members to become engaged members of the CEITEC scientific community. Although the involvement in community activities is voluntary, it is considered a sign of deep integrity to the mission and values of the institute. Those cherries on the cake also matter and help CEITEC to become employer of choice and to attract the best global talents.

Leaders as ambassadors of the CEITEC brand

Leaders at CEITEC should serve as ambassadors of the institute. As the leading representatives of the institute, the team leaders are involved in presenting the institute to the wider scientific community and to the general public. Leaders are expected to provide public statements on scientific topics of their expertise in mass media and through social media channels. Leaders are encouraged to consult their communication activities with the spokesperson of the institute to reflect the institutional values and to become credible advocates of the CEITEC brand. Also, public engagement is perceived very positively and in full accordance with the expectations of the institute's management.

Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. CEITEC MU is therefore offering plenty of opportunities for its leaders to develop leadership and managerial skills based on their natural prerequisites and previously completed training. As change is undoubtedly challenging, CEITEC wants to provide team leaders with sufficient support, a wide range of training opportunities, adequate room to practice the acquired skills, and feedback on progress from the institute's management. On the other hand, all leaders are expected to make a personal effort to improve their shortcomings and take responsibility for their personal development in the leadership area. Team leaders can either join CEITEC’s Leaders Training Academy or take advantage of the individual training approach supported by HR specialist Katerina Wolfova from the HR Department.

The whole process is systematic and starts with an assessment and development interview, followed by the creation of an individual development plan that is included in the assessment report. The leaders work on the development of their leadership and supervision skills based on the development plan created together with HR professionals and CEITEC´s management, and are re-evaluated again in one year. CEITEC´s new Leadership Policy is a powerful tool to inspire, develop and empower leaders and also their team members! Its vast positive effect will be surely felt in the years to come!

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