That effective leadership is an essential component of all well-functioning clinical laboratories is not controversial. Yet one of the most challenging aspects of leadership has been that these skills are not often formally taught. Instead, people achieve leadership positions and are left to figure out a path forward.

On Sunday, participants in the AACC University session “Clinical laboratory leadership essentials for the 21st century,” took a step towards developing their leadership skills. The three speakers—Sedef Yenice, PhD, Edward Randell, PhD, and Matthias Orth, MD, PhD—are all members of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) Committee on Clinical Laboratory Management (C-CLM) that has developed a Clinical Laboratory Leadership Training Certificate Program. The C-CLM has worked to ensure training programs are meeting the needs of professional members globally.

The AACC University session on Sunday began with Yenice asking the audience who has received some form of formal training related to leadership. Over half of the hands in the room went up. The session continued to engage the audience as it progressed, including open ended questions such as “what is a leader?” Collectively, the participants were able to generate a list of traits they would associate with effective leaders, including the ability to inspire and motivate others, present fresh and innovative ideas, and being a person that others turn to.

Following an overview of the six common leadership styles, participants were also able to assess their own leadership, and followership, styles through a self-scored leadership and followership quiz. Later in the session, participants were given the opportunity to determine their personality type through a second short survey. This allowed people to get a current assessment of where they are in their leadership style.

Yenice noted that her own leadership path has included a combination of experience and formal training. Each individual in his or her leadership journey must come to terms with true meaning of leadership success, she emphasized. “I think the most important question is to ask ourselves ‘am I interested in growing as a leader, or just in getting ahead?’” she said.

The speakers also underscored that laboratory medicine professionals must be prepared to lead in a context of continuous change. As a result, leaders need to grow and adapt their leadership style to continue to reach new goals. “The next generation of leaders in clinical laboratories needs to take a new approach to change and embrace an agile strategy that prioritizes a team-centered, iterative, and cross-functional approach,” Yenice commented. “The bottom line: Ongoing change will be necessary to succeed in the next decade. But successfully enacting organizational change is highly challenging.”

Yenice stressed that with the right strategy and tools, clinical laboratorians can position themselves to continue to grow. “By recognizing the complexity of change, embracing uncertainty, and using lessons from science and analytics to identify the right talent to execute change, the next generation of leaders can ensure their clinical laboratories are best positioned to win the next decade,” she said.

For participants in attendance on Sunday, some new, valuable insights have now been added to their leadership toolboxes.