By WIBOOL PIYAWATTANAMETHA
TO evolve, leaders have to internalise the idea that leadership is fundamentally different from managing tasks.
Being a great leader means both managing tasks and functions well, but also understanding how to behave and “shine” as a leader. It can be hard to grasp for some, but it can be learned. Therefore, the Asean Science Leadership Programme (SLP) was held for the first time at Bangsan Heritage Hotel, Chon Buri, from June 9-12.
The Asean SLP is a project initiated from the findings of the Global State of Young Scientists-Asean (GloSYS-Asean) survey conducted last year. It was found that the speed and quality of the development of science capacity depends not only on infrastructure and the technical training of people, but is intimately linked to the quality of its leadership to drive change.
It is widely accepted that the future of scientific development lies in enabling interdisciplinary, interconnected and often large international teams. However, training structures are often not set up to prepare a next generation of scientists for the complexities that an interconnected, interdisciplinary approach to science entails.
There is an internationally emerging paradigm that recognises that the focus on individual leadership is often inadequate to address complex challenges, which require skills across many sectors and collaborative processes. Hence the SLP is needed to develop the skills of the next generation of scientists.
The Asean SLP is based on experiences with the Africa Science Leadership Programme, developed jointly by the University of Pretoria and the Global Young Academy and supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation.
The programme is designed and conducted by the Leopold Leadership Programme at Stanford University in the US and the specialist facilitation company KnowInnovation.
Co-funding support for the Asean programme comes from the Thai National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Office, the National Science and Technology Development Agency, and PTT.
This year, 18 outstanding young scientists from five Asean countries are participating in the programme. The scientists represent basic and applied sciences, and span a wide range of disciplines including the social sciences and humanities.
The programme started on June 9, with a three-day intensive workshop. A former deputy prime minister of Thailand, Professor Yongyuth Yuthavong, was one of the renowned invited speakers.
The workshop is followed by a year of application and mentorship, with a follow-up workshop planned for July next year in Malaysia, where the 2017 Asean SLP fellows will meet with the inaugural cohort of 2016 fellows at the start of their second workshop.
All in all, Asean SLP has provided the notion that leadership involves many management skills, but generally as a secondary or background function of true leadership. Leadership instead relies most strongly on less tangible and less measurable things like trust, inspiration, attitude, decision-making, and personal character. These are not processes or skills or even necessarily the result of experience, but they can be learned.
Towards that end, the Asean SLP aims to grow excellent mid-career Asean academics in the areas of thought leadership, collaboration, and research development, with the intention of generating concerted effort and mobilising the Asean and the international scientific community to play major roles to advance the use of science to support global and national initiatives.
Wibool Piyawattanametha is director of the Advanced Imaging Research Centre at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang.