U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Mining the Gap: Assessing Leadership Needs to Improve 21st Century Plant Pathology

Beckerman, J., Schneider, W.
Plant disease 2016 v.100 no.12 pp. 2349-2356
communication skills, entrepreneurship, landscapes, leadership, leadership development, persuasion, plant pathology, professional development, scientists, surveys
Scientists and plant pathologists are trained in scientific knowledge and critical thinking as part of their career preparation process. However, the extensive training in science-related skills may come at a cost to “soft skills,” the competencies needed for interpersonal skills, communication, management, and leadership. A survey of the American Phytopathological Society indicated that the vast majority of its members (91%) were in leadership and management roles. Despite this, a minority of survey participants felt that their scientific training had prepared them to lead (30%) or manage others (36%). Plant pathologists had received the most training in topics that were tied to science. Less common were critical topics such as resilience, entrepreneurship, visioning, and persuasion, and participants were likely to choose skills considered necessary for management, as opposed to leadership. While scientific training is the primary purpose of graduate training, the lack of leadership training and professional development represents a critical deficiency at a time when science is increasingly moving toward larger collaborative projects. Soft skills training options are available, but utilization of these resources needs to be encouraged. An increased emphasis on augmenting leadership and management skills is critical to prepare scientists for a competitive, dynamic, and increasingly collaborative science landscape.