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EMBO Laboratory Leadership - Online Course for North American Scientists

You must provide an institutional TAX ID so that the TAX can be applied in your own country.
You will need to be able to attend from a quiet place where you can work undisturbed. You will need a good internet connection, a webcam and a microphone for video calling. The course uses Zoom.
The EMBO Laboratory Leadership course explores with attendees their own approach to leadership and uses this insight to define for each individual how they want to lead and manage their research groups or other teams.
The course also provides insight into how teams work best together and how to identify and resolve barriers to the efficient operation of teams.
Throughout the course, the trainers provide tools, techniques and insight tailored specifically to the laboratory/research setting for the management of teams, good communication, and the management of workloads and responsibilities.



Notes on Timings:

  1. All timings are approximate, as we will be working in a process-oriented manner. The time spent on a topic will expand or shrink to meet the needs of the course participants.
  2. We will work from 09.00 to 15.30 EST/New York time on all days.
  3. We will be taking regular 10 minutes breaks throughout the day (approx every hour), with a 1 hour break halfway through the working hours.


The topics covered over the 4 days are as follows:

Welcome, Introduction, Warming up

Activity: Giving participants time "to arrive" at the workshop and introduce the topics for the course. Open the "Parking Lot" for their questions and issues.

Purpose: Some participants attend the workshop with a specific question or challenge in mind. In addition to helping everyone get to know one another and feel comfortable, the trainers collect the questions and challenges that participants want to address so that they can refer back to them throughout the course. This ensures that every participant gets the support and insight that they need.

What is leadership?

Activity: Participants are invited to reflect on good leaders that they have known and to develop a definition of good leadership. Participants then reflect on their own day-to-day activities to determine for themselves how much of their work is about managing and how much is about leading, and whether they need to develop in some way to achieve the appropriate mix.

Purpose: Scientists tend to develop management skills: the ability to set goals and plan and execute work to achieve those goals. During the postdoctoral career phase, and especially once they are PIs, scientists need to take on more and more duties relating to leadership: creating a vision, influencing others to work towards it, and helping nurture and develop people along the way. This module ensures that everyone has an understanding of how much of their current role is leadership focused and, therefore, how much development they need to do.

The leadership role

Activity: Participants are introduced to J.L. Moreno’s ‘Role Theory’ and the ‘Role Atom’ tool. Participants then help one another use the Role Atom to analyse the different roles they play on a daily basis, identify which are important for their success and which are comfortable and uncomfortable. Participants then work on a plan to develop themselves in those roles that are important but uncomfortable.

Purpose: The course aims to build on the existing strengths of participants and help them begin to address some of their weaknesses. The Role Atom is one tool to identify which of the things you do are important to your success in your job, and which are less important. It also helps you work out which roles you avoid or do less well because they feel uncomfortable. This leads into a development plan. For example: I know I have to write grants, but I feel uncomfortable doing so because I don’t have very much experience. How could I improve?

The impact of working environment

Activity: Participants are invited to take on the perspectives of the different groups in their working environment: lab members, PIs, leadership team (e.g. director of institute). The trainers then facilitate a discussion between these three groups. After the discussion, the groups capture the expectations they heard articulated by the other groups and discuss when and how to raise these expectations.

Purpose: The environment in which we lead has an impact on the way in which we execute our leadership role. Being aware and respectful of the different perspectives and expectations in that environment is critical to success. Deliberately taking on the perspective of another person can expand our thinking around challenges and opportunities, as well as make us more aware of, and therefore more likely to fulfill, the expectations that our staff and our leaders have of us.

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding the principle of Emotional Intelligence can help you to identify and manage your emotions and behaviour, and to adapt yourself to work better with other people.

The impact of personality on leadership

Activity: Participants are introduced to the concept of Emotional Intelligence and a particular personality model, the Enneagram, to help them develop their own Emotional Intelligence and understand their colleagues and staff better. They develop strategies to solve challenges they are facing using personality as the analytical and creative tool to do so.

Purpose: Your personality colours how you perceive the world and how you accordingly act, both under normal and stress conditions. Understanding this gives you clues about natural strengths and potential derailers for your leadership. Participants are encouraged to think about the value of different perspectives and personality types and understand that diversity is a key ingredient in a highly successful team.

Working with values

Activity: Participants are encouraged to reflect on the values present in their work environment, and then to select and discuss 4 or 5 values that they would like to inculcate in their laboratories to ensure productive, fulfilling work. They are introduced to a strategy for implementing these values in their group.

Purpose: Working to a small set of shared values can improve the efficiency of teams, improve the effectiveness of decision-making and reduce conflict. An awareness of the intrinsic values that operate in your workplace can help you to operate more effectively with your colleagues, and developing and nurturing a positive set of values for your own laboratory can help your people to work more efficiently and effectively, especially in multi-national environments.

Giving feedback and criticism

Activity: Participants are introduced to a tool for giving feedback on positive and negative behaviour. They are encouraged to develop a culture of giving and receiving feedback within their groups. They then practise in groups using this tool.

Purpose: Feedback that is given well can help us and our colleagues address our blind spots (behaviour that is unhelpful to our success) and improves trust and productivity in teams. One challenge with giving feedback is that it can feel uncomfortable and can trigger strong emotions. This tool manages the emotions of the give and receiver and provides a framework to ensure the feedback is meaningful and has an impact.


Activity: Participants are introduced to E. Bern’s Transactional Analysis model of communication. They are encouraged to consider emotion a normal part of communicating and working with others, and to understand that the emotional content of a conversation needs to be handled skilfully. Participants then work in small groups to practice difficult conversations using the model with the support of the trainers.

Purpose: All successful leaders are effective communicators. Often a challenge to effective communication is being aware of your own emotional state and that of your conversation partner, and preparing a strategy for difficult conversations. This module aims to help participants understand and manage their own emotions and needs during a conversation, to be more aware of the emotions and needs of their partner, and to think more strategically about achieving their goals.

Team dynamics

Activity: Participants are introduced to B. Tuckman’s model of team development. They are then invited to consider the practical steps they could take as a PI at each stage of their group’s development.

Purpose: Leaders need to be aware of the dynamics in their team and to respond appropriately at different stages in your team's development. Participants also see how to deal with the high fluctuation rates in research teams to ensure that work remains on track and published, even when people leave.


Activity: Participants are introduced to F. Herzberg’s motivation model and are encouraged to reflect on how to use to help their people and themselves achieve states of high motivation.

Purpose: Low motivation is usually attributable to external factors about the work or the environment, rather than a character floor in the demotivated person. This tool helps PIs diagnose what is leading to low motivation states and then to look for effective solutions that will enable their people (or themselves) to feel more motivated.

Conflict in the lab

Activity: Participants are introduced to F. Glasl’s model of conflict, as well as other aspects of conflict theory and resolution. We then work through a conflict case, applying the theory to a real situation from a participant.

Purpose: Conflict is only a problem if nothing is done about it. This module encourages participants to view conflict as normal and solvable and provides tools and ideas to help them do that. By taking action and resolving conflict, PIs can avoid the downsides (loss of productivity, bad feelings) and take advantage of the energy, ideas and change that conflict can bring once it is resolved effectively.

Who's got the monkey?

Activity: Participants learn a method related to coaching that helps them help their people solve their own simple problems.

Purpose: Some problems the PI needs to solve. For many problems, staff members could solve them themselves if they thought about it. This method helps PIs work out which problems could be solved without their involvement and provides a method to help staff members think critically and learn to problem-solve themselves. This frees up some of the PI’s time to solve more complex problems and do more impactful work.


Activity: Participants learn about situational leadership and how to use it to adapt the way they delegate specific tasks to different people.

Purpose: All leaders need to be able to delegate work that they don’t have time for or that would be better done by someone else. However, each member of staff will have different levels of skill and willingness to do different tasks. Delegation therefore requires that the leader understands their people well enough to know how much support and encouragement they will need to complete a given task.

Elk Test

Activity: Participants reflect on the course and what they have learned and develop an action plan to begin to implement some of their new knowledge.

Purpose: The course is packed with new information, models and tools. Participants need to implement what they have learned at a pace that is comfortable for them and their people. So that they don’t forget what they have learned or the thoughts they had about applying it during the course, they are provided with a structure to help them plan strategies for implementation at a later date.