Jean Bauer, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Region V Director
|Photo credit: Maciej Ciupa|
Are leaders born with the ability to lead, or is leadership learned? The answer is both.
The road to becoming a leader can start in different ways. Some professionals aspire to be leaders. They have the desire and drive to want to lead, whether to oversee or improve on the current processes or to be successful at taking a whole new approach. Others “fall into” the role by necessity of the workplace or by being in the right place at the right time for advancement, and by being willing to take on the challenge.
And for some, the concept of becoming a leader can be frightening. Yet those same people are many times looked up to by their co-workers, colleagues, friends, and family. They express thoughtful opinions or act in ways that others want to follow, and they ultimately become leaders. Reluctantly they may take on the role and then search for ways to be the best they can be.
"One of the best benefits of developing and practicing leadership skills in ASCLS is that they are transferable to other parts of life. Learning how to communicate, resolve conflicts, recruit volunteers, work with others, etc., are basic skills that can be applied to work, church, and community settings.”
Regardless of the path one might take to leadership, various skills are needed to be effective. For most professionals, they acquire their competencies to lead through a variety of methods. Today, many are returning to universities to obtain an advanced degree. Others learn on the job by asking colleagues for advice, or by emulating behaviors of people they look up to as examples of the type of leader they wish to be. Many employers offer classes within the company to encourage the behavior they want projected by their leaders.
However, if one is searching for a great place to develop leadership skills outside of the workplace or formal education, look no further than ASCLS. It offers members multiple avenues to learn and prepare for leadership roles.
- Sessions at ASCLS meetings – Local, state, and regional meetings are held throughout the year, plus many sessions are offered at the Joint Annual Meeting that focus on the soft skills, as well as the technical skills, needed in our profession. Sessions topics may include conducting meetings, communication, motivation, managing versus coaching, and many others.
- Leadership Academy – The national ASCLS Leadership Academy provides a year-long study in leadership on such topics as management, team building, extraordinary productivity, presentation skills, networking, and many others. In addition, each participant reads two books on leadership and presents the content to their fellow classmates, practicing their newly acquired presentation skills. There are a number of state and region leadership academies as well that provide individuals with the opportunity to learn similar skills. The national Leadership Academy is now accepting applications for the 2020-21 class through April 1.
- Mentorship Program – This is an opportunity for a mentee to be paired with a mentor of similar interests. The partnership is an ongoing interaction between them throughout the year to provide an opportunity to ask questions, provide guidance, and get feedback from someone who has a bit more experience and has been there, done that.
- Leadership Development Committee – ASCLS has specifically directed this committee to develop readily accessible, online modules that will be available for all members who may need or want to develop a specific skill. The modules in current production include diversity, equity, and inclusion; communications; mentoring/being mentored; and professionalism.
- Laboratory Legislative Symposium – This annual event allows participants to learn about the issues that will be brought before Congress that will impact laboratories, followed by an opportunity to visit with your legislators to educate them on the issues. It’s a unique opportunity to lead your group in the advocacy arena.
Whether one obtains the knowledge and skills in a school setting, on the job, or through a professional organization, it is only the beginning. One must practice these newly acquired skills to become proficient. ASCLS offers many opportunities to gain this experience. Becoming involved—volunteering to be on an ASCLS committee in your state or region, or offering to help plan a meeting—is a way to continually grow into a self-assured leader. As the confidence builds, perhaps the next step is taking on the role of an officer in your constituent society. ASCLS has developed tools and modules to assist our leaders, such as the ASCLS strategic plan, mentoring and developing society leaders, volunteer management, marketing and communications, among others.
One of the best benefits of developing and practicing leadership skills in ASCLS is that they are transferable to other parts of life. Learning how to communicate, resolve conflicts, recruit volunteers, work with others, etc., are basic skills that can be applied to work, church, and community settings.
Leadership development is not a one-time occurrence. Successful leaders are lifelong learners. There are always new thoughts and ideas on how to lead, what is important in leading, new ways to motivate people, how to mentor, and so on. Confident leaders will search out ways to improve their skills.
Whether one starts with an inherent belief in their abilities or needs to be encouraged to take that first step, everyone needs to develop the skills to lead others. It is a journey that begins with a belief. Along with education, training, and practice, and with the desire to be the best leader possible, a great leader will emerge.
Jean Bauer is the laboratory director at Open Cities Health Center in St Paul, Minnesota.