President’s Corner:

Leaders: Born or Made?

Are people born to be leaders, or can they be trained to be leaders? This is but one dimension of the age-old nature-versus-nurture debate. In my experience, people in the academic community, which includes UCAR and NCAR, lean toward the “born leader” theory, and therefore they spend little effort training people to be leaders. It is assumed that leaders will somehow emerge and be there when needed. And indeed, certain individuals, from the time they are in kindergarten or even earlier, appear to be natural leaders, standing out in classes, sports, politics, or other activities. Those who do not manifest leadership traits in this way may be ignored, or worse, thought of as incapable of leading and not encouraged to take on leadership responsibilities.

This unconscious and certainly unwritten cultural strategy of leaving the development of leaders to chance or natural selection is likely flawed. First, while it is undeniable that some people are naturally inclined to take on leadership positions, leaving their leadership development to chance or a series of trial-and-error experiences may not develop the full leadership potential of these individuals. There is also a cost to this strategy; as author Minna Antrim put it, “Experience is a great teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.” A second and perhaps even more serious flaw of the benign-neglect method of leadership development is that neglecting the many other individuals who do not show obvious leadership skills or inclinations may be wasting a large pool of latent talent.

I suggest that developing leadership skills in people in the atmospheric sciences is a worthwhile investment, and that producing better leaders is more important than ever. Much has been written about the growing interdisciplinary nature of atmospheric sciences and the corresponding need for scientists to work as teams on complex projects rather than as individuals. Teams, even small ones of as few as several people, require leaders. Leadership and teamwork may seem contradictory, but a major part of leadership is to get people to work together effectively and harmoniously.

In addition to the growing need for leaders in response to the changing nature of the science, a practical consideration looms: many of the present leaders in the atmospheric sciences will retire in the next ten years, as predicted by demographic trends (see “On the Web,”). Therefore, a growing need for new leaders exists, and with that need come great opportunities for people in their early and middle careers. How to encourage and develop these leaders is a challenge, but also an exciting opportunity.

Management or leadership?

Management and leadership are sometimes confused. Management skills are related to leadership skills, but they are not the same; a good leader may be a terrible manager, and vice versa. While there are certainly overlapping characteristics, leadership has more to do with conceptualization and vision, while management is more associated with carrying out the tasks and plans that emerge from concepts and visions. Writer and management expert Peter Drucker sums it up this way: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Participants and organizers from the 2003 NCAR Undergraduate Leadership Workshop. (Click here for a larger photo.)

Front row: Tim Barnes (UCAR Education and Outreach Program, or EO), Julia Flaherty (Washington State University), Courtney Hannon (UCLA), Ryan Ellis (University of Miami), Sarah Allen (University of Louisiana at Monroe), David D'Onofrio (Georgia Institute of Technology), Susan Foster (EO)

Second row: Kaycee Frederick (University of North Dakota), Rebecca Waddington (San Jose State University), Michelle Ramos (Grandview High School, Aurora, Colorado), Kelvin Droegemeier (professor, University of Oklahoma), Tim Killeen (NCAR director), Megan Linki (Cook College at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey), Kathryn Welsh (Metropolitan State College of Denver), Leah Carson (McGill University).

Back row: Christopher Fuhrmann (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Andrew Ballinger (University of Oklahoma), Jon Hobbs (Iowa State University), Kris Karnauskas (University of Wisconsin—Madison), Brian Tang (UCLA), Kenny Tapp (OU), Andrew Straessle (U.S. Naval Academy), Joseph Nield (Purdue University), Dale Unruh (Millersville University of Pennsylvania), Andrew Metcalf (Pennsylvania State University).

In the past few years, UCAR has taken an increasingly active role in developing and training both leaders and managers through its Developing Human Capital Program. This effort is directed not only at scientists, but also at engineers, administrators, accountants, project directors, communicators, and other types of employees important to UCAR—as well as students and faculty at our member institutions. The newest UCAR leadership programs (see details below) include the Undergraduate Leadership Workshop at NCAR, the UCAR/NCAR Junior Faculty Forum on Future Scientific Directions, and the 2003 Leadership Academy. Other, more established efforts, such as the NCAR Advanced Study Program for postdoctoral researchers and Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) for undergraduate and graduate students, have included significant components of leadership development as well.
In 2002 we held the first weeklong Undergraduate Leadership Workshop at NCAR for undergraduates from UCAR member universities. It included 24 students selected on a competitive basis through nominations from their universities. Through lectures and discussions, tours, and exposure to leading researchers, the workshop was designed to develop the leadership potential of the students and encourage them to go on to graduate careers. A second workshop was held in 2003. Reaction has been strongly positive; for example, a 2003 participant, Brian Tang (University of California, Los Angeles), commented, “[The workshop] changed my whole perspective on what it means to be a leader. I couldn’t have imagined that I would be exposed to so many areas of active research in the five days we were in Boulder.”

The inaugural Leadership Academy included 24 UCAR/NCAR staff, pictured here with several managers from UCAR, NCAR, and NSF at the academy's final gathering on 31 July. (Click here for larger photo.)

Front row: Greg Byrd, Steven Worley, June Wang, Janet Evans, Sue Schauffler, Mary Barth, Joanne Graham, Kathy Morgan, Elisabeth Holland, Elizabeth Lessard, Terri Betancourt, Catherine Shea, Cliff Jacobs (NSF program manager), Rick Anthes (UCAR president), Roger Hendershot, Katy Schmoll (UCAR vice president for finance and administration), Lawrence Buja.

Back row: Tim Killeen (NCAR director), Randy Russell, Paddy McCarthy, Catherine Clark, Marion Hammond, Janice Kauvar, Karl Werner, Mark Bradford, Richard Valent. Not pictured: John Pereira, Ed Ringleman.

In 2003 the NCAR Early Career Scientist Assembly (ECSA) developed the Junior Faculty Forum on Future Scientific Directions, held on 20–23 June in Boulder. The 65 participants—including young scientists from NCAR and faculty from 36 universities—discussed three topics: predictability, the water cycle and land ecosystems, and the atmospheric hydrologic cycle. Again, the response was upbeat and enthusiastic; one participant noted, “[the forum] brought young scientists together and we discovered that there are still big questions to be answered and that we now have the tools, in terms of technology and observations, to find some answers.”

UCAR Leadership Academy: A bold step forward

The most recent and perhaps boldest leadership training effort is the new UCAR Leadership Academy, whose mission is “to increase UCAR/NCAR/UOP’s capacity for excellence through developing our current and future leaders.” The first Leadership Academy, which ended in late July 2003, consisted of a four-month intensive set of courses that included project leadership and management, resolving conflicts, writing proposals, ethics and integrity, legal and corporate responsibilities, developing skills of employees, developing supervisory skills, appraising performance, understanding business operations, managing change and transitions, and other topics. See “On the Web” for background on the academy and for a Staff Notes Monthly article.

The academy challenged its 24 participants and instructors in terms of content (it included a large number of topics not formally addressed at UCAR) and time commitment (about 20 days of courses over four months).

The Leadership Academy carried some risk of failure. Initial reactions among UCAR staff to the concept of leadership training through the academy ranged from enthusiastic acceptance of the idea and willingness to give it a try to extreme doubts and even assertions that it would never work and was a waste of time. Fortunately, the optimists appear to have been correct. Judging from the reactions of the participants and the instructors, the academy was an unqualified success.

Each participant completed an extensive evaluation form, and the results were extremely positive. While nearly all noted the large time commitment required (the major criticism), the class uniformly praised the content of the academy and its value to themselves and their colleagues.

One software engineer, Terri Betancourt, responded: “The program has taught me the skills to become an effective, competent and open-minded leader.” Systems administrator Mark Bradford said, “Being an academy participant has really changed my outlook on my position within UCAR, and opened my eyes to ways in which I can provide leadership not only to people who report directly to me, but to my entire group and even in a broader way within the entire institution.” And engineer Roger Hendershot noted the value of combining formal training with “learning by experience” when he said, “Prior to the Leadership Academy, I employed some of the above-mentioned skills in a ‘seat of the pants’ style without much of a knowledge base . . . my style had evolved mostly by trial and error. The academy has given me a very thorough basis which has validated some of the things that were working for me and added a vast set of additional tools.” Roger’s experience supports Minna Antrim’s observation that experience is a great teacher, but suggests that with appropriate training the “terrific bills” could be greatly reduced.

In summary, UCAR’s nearly uniformly positive experience with the undergraduate and junior faculty workshops and the Leadership Academy suggests that formal programs directed at enhancing leadership and management skills—broadly defined—can assist in the development of the next generation of leaders. Perhaps Elaine Agather (JP Morgan Chase and Company) puts it best when she writes, “The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.”

The positive response from the diverse set of young people participating in UCAR’s formal leadership development efforts is very encouraging. We look forward to the fruits of these development activities long into the future.

- Rick Anthes

Congress looks at climate change

In July, I responded to a request from Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) for information relevant to the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act (S. 139). Originally introduced by McCain and Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) as an amendment tothis year’s energy bill, it was split off as a separate bill and was scheduled to be heard by the Senate in September. My full response to McCain is online. The graphic at below was included with my reply. - Rick Anthes

These results were generated by two four-run ensembles of the Parallel Climate Model, operated by NCAR and the U.S. Department of Energy. The blue PCM runs incorporate only natural climate variations—the influence of volcanoes and solar variations on Earth’s radiative budget. The red PCM runs include these factors as well as the effects of greenhouse gases and sulfates. The black line represents observations. The results for global average temperature are plotted as anomalies relative to the PCM’s global mean temperature from 1890 to 1919. In both the red and blue cases, the shading illustrates the range covered by the four ensemble members, and the solid-colored line shows the ensemble mean. Although early-century warming can be accounted for by natural factors, only by adding anthropogenic forcings can the PCM simulate the observed late-century warming. (Illustration courtesy Jerry Meehl, Warren Washington, and Julie Arblaster.)


Also in this issue...

The changing face of NCAR

Initiatives in Brief
Geographic Information Systems

WRF's new construction zone
Hurricane-tested WRF nails Isabel

UCAR Foundation launches tech-transfer firm

Women in meteorology: how long a minority?

Building a home for HIAPER


Web Watch - Soundings in action

Science Bit

UCAR Community Calendar