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Do Grad Studies Teach Leadership Skills?

May 3, 2016
By GradProSkills

Whether they’re launching their own businesses or looking to launch themselves into an alt-ac career, an increasing number of students are going on to work outside of the university setting once they’ve completed their PhDs. 

Thankfully, grad studies equips students with competencies that are transferable from one workplace setting to another. Leadership skills are one such example.
But what is leadership? What leadership competencies are required for today’s graduate students to be successful in the workforce, academic or otherwise – and are they effectively being taught?
These are a set of questions that GradProSkills’s Leadership team sought to answer when, in collaboration with McGill’s SKILLSETS program, it interviewed 22 recent PhD graduates about which leadership skills they acquired through their studies, and those they felt were underdeveloped. The participants were drawn from all areas of study (humanities, social sciences, engineering and natural sciences, and business) and all sectors (research, industry and public).
At the beginning of the project, the team had identified a 25-item leadership competency framework, explains GradProSkills EdTech intern Yixin Peng. Yixin, who is completing her Master’s in Educational Technology at Concordia, and worked as an instructional designer for the team. She explains that of those 25 competencies, respondents considered 11 to be underdeveloped after graduating.

This chart illustrates the results of the survey. The skills closer to the center are considered to be better developed through PhD studies. Conversely, the ones nearer the edge of the circle are considered to be poorly developed.
Skills related to career management, work-life balance, team management, and negotiation and persuasion were all considered to be important for post-graduation success, but were not something respondents felt were developed during their graduate studies, regardless of whether they were now working in research, industry or the public sector.
That’s why GradProSkills developed its series of Leadership workshops to hone in on these competencies, Yixin says. Four of these are offered in the Spring/Summer semester; all are designed to be student-centered, incorporating practical case studies and offering the opportunity to play out different situations in class, among other ways to foster a collaborative learning environment.
The first in the series, Foundations of Leadership, is designed to provide participants with a understanding of the interplay between leadership, followership, and context, and emphasizes how leadership development is relevant to their own careers. Crucially, the workshop provides the opportunity and guidance for students to chart their own leadership development course, based on what they feel is most important for their own careers.

This is a list of the 4 workshops:

None of the workshops require prior experience to attend; all attendees are considered to be starting at an introductory level. 


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