Searchable abstracts of presentations at key conferences in endocrinology
Endocrine Abstracts (2009) 19 S85

SFEBES2009 Retired Endocrinologists' Session (1) (6 abstracts)

Leadership for creation of excellence

R Dyer

Chief Executive, The Biosciences Federation, Cambridge, UK.

In this world, there are no prizes for coming second: the only way to flourish in any field is through excellence, and that includes the leadership of groups and organisations. Leadership, however, is a lazily understood concept. We know about charismatic leaders, with vision and ability to think laterally, who save nations in a state of crisis. Yet these same characteristics are often also needed by those who lead science-based organisations. Furthermore even charismatic leaders must devolve some power in order to create a collective leadership, and in science we are not usually very successful here. And charismatic leaders themselves sometimes need to be led.

The problem to overcome is a mixture of conservatism and belief that others lead the organisation. Scientists are innovative and challenging individuals but, paradoxically, they are themselves usually opposed to change. However the status quo is indefensible by definition because it implies perfection. As with the motor skills of sportsmen, perfection (i.e. excellence) must be sought on a daily basis. The envelope that defines the status quo requires constant challenge, but sadly this rarely occurs. Furthermore individuals often believe that leadership is the job of someone ‘over there’: it is not, but nor is it achieved through meaningless meetings without action.

As a consequence of all this, organisations tend to evolve through defensive responses to external pressures, where the need for ‘change management’ is read as a statement of failure. It reflects a period of stasis, of conservatism, of thinking ‘we don’t need to keep changing’ and of missed opportunities. Daily improvement is as necessary for an organisation as it is for an athlete, but it need not be revolutionary. I shall argue that if it is done on the move, it is easy to change direction gracefully. On the other hand, if done from a static position, you don’t know in which direction to start moving!!

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