Series: Leadership for women in STEMM - what's it about? (1/5)

Many individuals who choose STEMM careers have an innate curiosity and ambition to create positive change in the world. This requires leadership. And many of the skills and competencies and mindset characteristics that make a good scientist are the same as those that make a good leader. Yet in many ways, this is not yet common knowledge.

You are potentially the world’s best kept secret.

Are leaders born or can they be made? The answer is both. And either way, to become an effective leader is a journey of identity development and practical skills, just like a series of experiments where results inform the next series of tests. Importantly too, leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. Leadership is a big broad topic that continues to fascinate scholars, practitioners, and business leaders around the world.


Antonakis et al. (2004) noted that because of the complex nature of leadership, a specific and widely accepted definition of leadership does not exist and might never be found. However, it is generally accepted that leadership is the ability to inspire and direct a group of people to achieve a common goal. This is done by people applying their leadership attributes.

Leaders create commitment and enthusiasm amongst followers to achieve goals. Leadership is achieved through interaction between leader, follower and environment.

In 2006, AQR International, a UK-based leading consultancy specialising in developing Mental Toughness in leaders and organisations carried out a comprehensive study and found that the leaders examined had their origins in the same components. These were 6 scales which represented different aspects of leadership style and 5 core leadership competencies crucial for leadership effectiveness:

  • Determination to deliver – the single mindedness to achieve. Most satisfaction from both the leader and the followers is derived from this

  • Engaging with individuals – this describes enhancing the capability, confidence and commitment of individuals to perform and to fulfill themselves

  • Engaging with the whole team – the emphasis is on cross-functional teamworking

  • The ability to make and implement hard, often, painful decisions for th