Creating Leadership Opportunities#

While leadership opportunities can emerge, it can be helpful to create clear pathways to invite individuals to lead, acknowledge their work and formalise their roles.
This can be done by inviting people for individual contributions and facilitating a culture where people feel empowered and trusted to lead when opportunities arise.

Once a community or project team has grown to a certain size, a more formal structure can help to ensure leadership responsibility scale accordingly to keep everyone supported. Being clear about the roles people can take on and the commitment that is expected from them will allow people to manage expectations around skills, workload, and responsibilities.

One way to do this is to have people commit for a certain period and re-evaluate leadership regularly. This allows active leaders to reflect on their contributions and offboard if necessary and is an opportunity to identify if more or other community members have emerged and should be formally recognised for their work.

In the context of data science, in The Turing Way we have discussed the Research Infrastructure Roles describing the roles of members in a research team who provide specialised skills, expertise and services required for effectively carrying out and delivering high-quality research. You can explore the chapter in detail, which spotlights the roles of Research Community Managers, Research Applications Managers, Research Engineers, Data Stewards, Data Wranglers, Project Managers and more as open leaders.

For community projects, The Carpentries’ community leadership documentation in The Carpentries’ Handbook makes a good set of resources.

Onboarding, Nurturing and Offboarding Gracefully#

Onboarding new leaders#

Onboarding leaders is a process through which new members join an organisation at a leadership position. Onboarding occurs after a new member has agreed to join the organisation upon invitation by the current leadership team or via a formal election process. A set of guidelines can be provided in a written format as a formal or informal document to ensure that new members have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the processes and resources they can use in their work, as well as people in the organisation they can collaborate with. Onboarding is particularly important to make the new members or leaders feel welcome in their organisation. Here are a few steps that may be involved in the onboarding process:

  • Updating internal and external documents to communicate the new position or active status of newly onboarded members with the appropriate party

  • Sharing documents with details on organisation policy, project details and job responsibilities with the onboarding person

  • Giving access to platforms and documents to ensure required/permitted details are transparently shared

  • Explaining roles and responsibilities of other members and leaders in the organisation

  • Scheduling meetings with all stakeholders in the project who the newly onboarded member can collaborate with

Nurturing the next leaders#

In data science and research, leaders are often too busy leading (admin tasks, reporting, funding, and project meetings) and hence leaders rarely have time to learn about the latest advances both at technical and human levels. Therefore, leaders need to allow members of their team to work independently, while also supporting them in exchanging knowledge among themselves. Senior leaders should commit to building diverse teams with members and leaders from various backgrounds and levels of experience. It is then their responsibility to mentor and support them, and create a path for them to excel and grow in their roles.

Nurturing these next-generation leaders requires building trust through authentic connections, and providing opportunities for upskilling. Providing the right level of support while challenging and nudging their team members towards new directions helps them, the team, upskill and experience personal growth. The best way to nurture potential leaders is to allow them to take on meaningful leadership responsibilities and find solutions for their problems or challenges through collaboration.

Offboarding gracefully#

Offboarding is the process that leads to the formal separation between a leader or team member and the organisation through resignation, termination, or retirement. Offboarding ensures there are no communication gaps or information loss when someone leaves the organisation. The process is also important to ensure that the contributions by members are fairly recorded and attributed in the future, as well as to improve the ways of working for the current and future team members.

Offboarding gracefully means providing clear guidance for members in key positions on how and when they can step down. Written documents or formal policies for offboarding allows leaders to be aware of their options and prepare to step down on time, avoiding burnout.

Here are a few steps that may be involved in the offboarding process:

  • Contacting the responsible member of the organisation who will help in the offboarding process

  • Documenting any ongoing responsibilities that will be delegated to other members for continuity

  • Updating internal and external documents to communicate the change in status of offboarded members to team or community

  • Revoking access to platforms and documents to ensure the safety of data and information that should remain accessible only to active members

  • Conducting an exit interview for the organisation to seek feedback about a member’s experience and identify areas for improvement

  • Finishing paperwork required to conclude the offboarding process and create an organisational record for future reference