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Laboratory Leadership for Postdocs

Available course dates can be seen here.


Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the following restrictions will apply to this course. Please be sure you are willing to comply before you register:

1. You must show proof of vaccination to be accepted for participation in this course (a photograph/scan of your vaccination document or receipt); a negative test will not be accepted as a substitute for vaccination.

2. Registration is limited to participants resident in EU member states, states associated with Schengen: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and the UK. You can find out more about current entry restrictions to Germany here: https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/einreiseundaufenthalt/coronavirus.

The following conditions may apply, depending on government advice and regulations, and our own judgements. Please be sure you are willing to comply in case these measures become necessary:

1. You may be required to take a COVID 'fast test' each morning (we will supply them) and must have a negative result before being permitted into the seminar room. If you cannot agree to testing each day of the course, please do not register.

2. Although the seminar rooms have high efficiency, filtered ventilation, both participants and trainers may be required to wear FFP2 face masks throughout the course. The trainer who is actively facilitating may remove their mask for the duration of their presentation. If you cannot agree to wear a face mask for the duration of the course, please do not register. We will provide face masks.

3. The situation regarding EU-wide travel and the spread of the Coronavirus 'delta variant' remains hard to predict. We are planning this course on the assumption that we will be able to run it and that you will be able to travel to it without quarantine restrictions. If that situation changes, you will be offered your choice of either a full refund of your course fee (though not your travel costs), or the opportunity to take the course as an online workshop at a lower cost (i.e. with a refund of the difference).

We very much hope that this course can go ahead.





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 work from 09.00 to 17.30 on all days except the last day.
  3. On the last day we work until 16.30.


60 mins

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.

45 mins

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.

120 mins

The PI / group leader 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?

75 mins

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.

30 mins

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.


60 mins

Research Integrity

Activity: Using the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity as a foundation, participants are asked to reflect on the responsibilities of scientists and to develop practical steps they can take to ensure their research is ethical, accurately documented and reproducible.

Purpose: EMBO views Research Integrity as a critical responsibility of PIs. This module aims to raise awareness of the aspects of research integrity and focuses on practical, often common-sense things that PIs can do to ensure their labs run well.

60 mins


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.

45 mins

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.

120 mins

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.


60 mins

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.

30 mins


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.

45 mins


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.

45 mins

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.

30 mins

Wrap-up and Next Steps

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.

30 mins

Course Close

We say goodbye to one another and close the course.