To celebrate the re-launch of the Future RKE Leaders programme, throughout February and March I have been posting interviews with a selection of previous Future RKE Leaders cohort members. Each kindly shared details of their research leadership development journeys, providing useful insights for those looking to develop their research leadership skills.
Our fifth and final interview is with Prof Jamie McPhee, Head of Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences and a member of the 2014 Future RKE Leaders Cohort.
Please name a research leader who you admire. What is it that you admire about them?
Jamie named three people who he had worked closely with, had learnt a lot from, and been inspired by in his career. Firstly, Emeritus Professor David Jones, as he was an innovator in his field of muscle physiology, and the first to apply techniques that are now commonly used. Professor Jones produced many papers throughout his career and was always very modest. Secondly, Jamie named Professor Marco Narici, who is now based at University of Padova in Italy. Professor Narici is very well connected both internationally and nationally. He demonstrated to Jamie the value of networking as people now come to Professor Narici with their new ideas. The third person Jamie named was Professor Hans Degens, currently a fellow member of the Musculoskeletal Science and Sports Medicine Research Centre. Jamie described Professor Degens as a great character, always very accessible and willing to help and collaborate.
What have been the key turning points or ‘light bulb’ moments in your leadership development journey so far?
Reflecting on his career, Jamie believes there is no such thing as developmental ‘light bulb’ moments; that breakthroughs do not happen suddenly. For him, development is a process of incremental gains resulting from lots of unseen hard work. Over a period of continuous improvement, the result is good quality papers and good quality grant proposals. When these proposals are funded this is when a transformation can occur, by increasing the pace and quality of your research.
How do you bring others along with you?
Within a research group Jamie found he was often surrounded by like-minded people, working towards the same goal. In this way success is shared and it is relatively easy to bring people along on the same journey. Jamie has found this becomes more difficult on a larger scale, when you have oversight of multiple groups. At this scale there is increased competition for resources and as a leader you want everyone to be able progress. Jamie’s approach is to ensure effort is rewarded and distribution of resources is transparent and fair. Jamie feels it is also important to support everyone to understand the common strategic direction, ultimately encouraging a shared vision.
In what ways do you use your leadership skills to promote your research outside of Manchester Met?
In Jamie’s experience, your external reputation is key. Publications provide a foundation for you to build on by presenting your research at conferences wherever you can. Over time, this can translate into invited talks which are opportunities to demonstrate how your work fits in with that of others. In turn, these activities help you to extend your network and build collaborative partnerships. By building these connections you are now able to access and engage with national and international research groups. It is Jamie’s view that the key to building your external reputation is making the effort to reach out.
How did the Future RKE Leaders programme support you on your leadership development journey?
Jamie benefited from the opportunity to make connections with university leaders and people with influence across the university. He also benefitted from meeting researchers at the same career stage as himself. He found they had similar aspirations and faced similar challenges and they were able to build a good cross-faculty network. He was also provided with insight into university processes, knowledge of which he has found essential for effective research leadership.
How have you continued to engage with your career development since completing the programme?
Jamie views his research career development as a continuous and ongoing process since his time as an undergraduate. He has found he has progressed by working to adapt to each new challenge with the support of different mentors. The role of Head of Department presented a major new challenge. Jamie continues to seek out advice from many different sources, which enables him to best understand and respond to the requirements of the role.