Lessons in Leadership for MBP Students

A recent seminar for students in the Master of Biotechnology program (MBP) focused on how to be a better leader and the myths that are often associated with leadership.

Students in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology program (MBP) perform full-time research during their final two quarters in the program. To help prepare them for that experience, students take a seminar course that introduces them to possible research advisors and allows them to focus on the skills and resources required for impactful investigations. 

One of the important, although sometimes misunderstood, skills touched on in the course is leadership. Certified business and executive coach Linda Brennan recently led a workshop for students about leadership myths and how they can become stronger leaders. Samuel Chiang (MBP '21) reflected on the workshop and how he hopes to incorporate the lessons he learned into his research, and ultimately his professional career. 


What appealed to you about the leadership workshop?

In her workshop on leadership, Linda elucidated the fundamental truths behind the perceptions and myths that often surround leadership. She provided insights into core qualities and attributes that are shared by successful leaders and those that fail. Since leadership is such a crucial skill, I was interested in learning about specific traits and strategies I could use to become a more effective leader.  

What were the most important lessons that you learned during the workshop?

Leadership relies on power and influence, and is a skill that can be developed and refined. Although traditional power comes from hierarchical structure, individuals follow people they trust. Trusting is a risk-taking behavior based on ability, benevolence, and integrity. Trust is fundamental to effective leadership.

What surprised you most about what was said about leadership?

Oftentimes, there is the common perception that good leaders are innately extroverted and charismatic. However, Brennan emphasized that charisma alone does not lead to good leadership. Charisma is something you think and do, the combination of power, presence, and warmth.  

How will you apply what you learned into the rest of your time in MBP and professionally after you graduate?

Having attended this workshop, I am confident some of the topics covered can be readily applied to my time in MBP as well as in the workplace. During my personal leadership journey, I will continually work toward improving my emotional intelligence and being an individual people can trust. Additionally, I will focus on portraying presence and warmth while being intentional in cultivating meaningful connections with others.

How important is it for MBP to host workshops like this for current students?

Given that students spend a majority of their time in core engineering coursework and research, it is crucial that MBP hosts workshops that help students strengthen their leadership and soft-core skills in preparation for their careers.

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