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New approach to the Research Leadership Development Programme

08 Mar 2024 | Dr Ireen Litvak-Zur Dr Ireen Litvak-Zur, Advance HE Senior Consultant, Research, explains the new ‘tailored approach’ for the programme which aims to unlock meaningful and impactful conversations around research leadership

In the ever-evolving landscape of research, effective research leadership is crucial for driving innovation, fostering collaboration, and ensuring the success of research endeavours. Recognising the need for a more targeted and impactful approach, Advance HE has revamped the existing Research Leadership Development Programme (RLDP) to better serve the diverse needs of the research community.

The previous RLDP consisted of three broad modules, each attempting to cover a wide range of leadership aspects. A deep exploration of the programme pointed to one major question – who can use the skills taught on the programme and when? Early career researchers, senior lecturers, heads of departments, all have different life, career, and leadership experience. Their priorities and institutional and sectoral understanding differ from each other, and their career goals vary. So, how can we facilitate meaningful and impactful conversations around research leadership in a way that maximises participants' benefits from it? The answer required a new approach.

The new RLDP: A three-tiered approach 

Our new approach includes three levels of RLDP, offering a unique skill set on each level of training. We encourage evaluation of self and others, emphasise context, and focus on change processes. The most significant change the programme has undergone through is the understanding that we needed a more tailored and nuanced programme - one that acknowledged the varying stages of leadership development.

The new RLDP is now divided into three distinct programmes, each catering to specific leadership levels: 

1.  Aspiring research leaders  

  • Who are they? Aspiring leaders are at the beginning of their leadership journey. They may be post-doctoral researchers, newly appointed lecturers, or PhD students involved in institutional leadership. These individuals have conducted independent research, worked in teams under supervision, and are already acting as leaders, without official titles
  • Programme highlights: The main question participants will answer here is “Who am I as a leader?”. Aspiring leaders require foundational knowledge in leadership styles, self-reflection, emotional intelligence, and understanding of departmental or institutional research culture. We offer practical workshops on team dynamics, effective communication, and networking. Importantly, we offer a space to think about and recognize oneself as a leader. 

2.  Emerging research leaders 

  • Who are they? Emerging leaders have some experience under their belts. They hold positions such as senior lecturers, readers, or junior faculty close to their first promotion. They’ve led research teams, secured funding, and actively engaged with university senior leadership
  • Programme highlights: Here participants will focus on the question “How do I enhance team performance?”. We believe these leaders can benefit from acquiring advanced skills in project management, strategic planning, and positive leadership. We offer deep dives into understanding team dynamics, interdisciplinary collaboration, and mentoring skills.

3.  Established Research Leaders 

  • Who are they? These are leaders with significant leadership experience, holding or applying for senior administrative positions such as heads of departments or deans. They have led large research groups with big budgets, have influenced and shaped departmental research culture, and have considerable influence on institutional research culture and university policies
  • Programme highlights: The top tier of our RLDP programme series will offer insights to the question, “How can I influence and lead change?”. Our programme stems from the Resilient Leaders Elements approach, and focuses on building resilience for the participants, their teams, institutions, and the research sector. We offer a deep exploration of existing research cultures, practice change management, understand institutional and sectorial EDI, and build resilience in volatile times.

The new RLDP acknowledges that leadership development is not one-size-fits-all. By tailoring our programmes to the unique needs of aspiring, emerging, and established research leaders, we empower them to thrive in their respective roles. This is an exciting new programme series, and we are looking forward to embark on this transformative journey together.

If you or your department/institution is looking to developing confident and authentic leaders to promote an effective research culture, find out more about the newly designed Research Leadership Development Programme

Dr. Ireen Litvak-Zur is a Senior Consultant, Research at Advance HE. She directs a wide range of programmes where research and leadership intersect, including Research Leadership Development Programme, Research Team Leadership, and Success on The Board. 

Ireen holds a PhD in international relations and specializes in negotiation and team dynamics. She is an experienced researcher and consultant, focused on research culture and internationalized multidisciplinary initiatives. Ireen has worked at multiple higher education institutions across the globe and is an accredited and awarded educator, with a special interest in equality, diversity and inclusion and how they drive thriving and sustainable research cultures.


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