Leadership development among scientists
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The purpose of this study was to develop leadership among a group of scientists by using learning approaches that support and challenge the development of capabilities for skillful and timely action. This study was guided by the following research questions: (1) What are the leadership challenges that early-career scientists face in the transition to an unfamiliar, multiprofessional, and multidisciplinary applied context? (2) How does a Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI) method work in practice to identify leadership challenges and develop leadership capabilities? and, (3) What can be learned about how CDAI methods create a culture of learning and leadership at the individual, group, and organizational system levels? Two action research teams, consisting of seven early-career scientists and their nine supervisors and mentors, engaged in monthly action inquiry sessions over a two-year period. Qualitative data were generated by recording, transcribing, and coding these sessions, as well as interviews, researcher notes, emails, and organizational documents. Using first- and second-person inquiry practices, these emerging scientific leaders began to uncover that they experienced adaptive challenges in collaborating across disciplines, and in interpersonal dynamics in the supervisor–mentor –mentee relationship. In working across organizational boundaries, as part of their action learning leadership project, early-career scientists faced the adaptive challenge of obtaining high enough level organizational support for their creative ideas. The CDAI method generated a flexible learning space that adapted in five ways to both support and challenge early-career scientists to grow their adaptive leadership capabilities. CDAI methods generated a space for (1) connection and belonging then it adapted to (2) allow leadership creativity to emerge. In the context of a leadership action-learning project, the CDAI space reshaped to help early-career scientists (3) develop project strategy and (4) stay focused. The CDAI space challenged early-career scientists to grow their adaptive leadership capabilities by (5) exploring meaning making which resulted in deeper levels of learning from single- to double-loop and in some cases triple-loop learning. Implications for organizations wishing to develop capabilities to meet adaptive challenges include creating a micro-culture for learning and leadership with the potential to shift sub-cultures within large, hierarchical organizations.