Creating Leadership Opportunities

While leadership opportunities can emerge, it can be helpful to create clear opportunities and invite individuals to lead.
This can be done through 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. The Carpentries are one example where some of the community leadership roles have been formalized and are documented in The Carpentries’ Handbook.

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 process and resources they can use in their work, as well as people in the organisation they can collaborate with. The process 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

  • Documents with details on organisation policy, project details and job responsibilities

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

  • Roles and responsibilities of other members and leaders in the organisation

  • Meeting scheduled with all stakeholders in the project with 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 help them upskill and experience personal growth. The best way to nurture the next 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 board member and the organisation through resignation, termination or retirement. Offboarding ensures there are no communication gaps or information loss when a board member leaves the organisation. The process is also important to ensure that the contributions by the board members are fairly recorded and attributed in the future, as well as to improve the ways of working for the current and future employees.

Offboarding gracefully means providing clear guidance for members in key positions on how and when they can step down. Written documents or policy 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 in the organisation who will help in the offboarding process

  • Document 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 with the appropriate party

  • Revoking access to platforms and documents to ensure the safety of data and information that should remain accessible only for the 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 the future reference