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ACS Leadership Development System turns 10

Courses are freely available to ACS members, both in person and online

by Linda Wang
April 5, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 14


A group of attendees during a Leadership Development System course.
Credit: Courtesy of Ajay Mallia
Ajay Mallia (far left) facilitated a course called Collaborating across Boundaries in 2018.

The American Chemical Society is celebrating 10 years of developing leaders through its Leadership Development System, which includes a series of training courses covering topics such as engaging and motivating volunteers, managing projects effectively, and engaging colleagues in dialogue.

Launched in 2009 at the spring ACS national meeting in Salt Lake City, the Leadership Development System has provided leadership development to more than 6,000 people, including ACS local section and technical division leaders, committee members, governance leaders, students and working professionals, and others interested in developing their leadership skills.

Leadership training

The following courses are available through the Leadership Development System.

Facilitated courses:

Coaching and Feedback
Collaborating across Boundaries
Developing Communication Strategies
Engaging and Motivating Volunteers
Engaging Colleagues in Dialogue
Extraordinary Leaders
Fostering Innovation
Leading Change
Leading without Authority
Strategic Planning

Online courses

ACS and You
Becoming an Effective Contributor
Managing Projects Effectively
Matching Interests with Goals
Running Productive Meetings
Succession Planning
Understanding Members’ Interests

The Leadership Development System reflects ACS’s core values of focusing on members and professionalism. Other leadership development programming includes strategic planning retreats and the annual ACS Leadership Institute.

“The whole idea was to be able to develop this kind of a robust pipeline of extraordinary leaders that could take leadership roles in the society,” says Larry Krannich, who helped develop and implement the Leadership Development System. In addition, “all of those individuals can now make use of those leadership skills in their organizations, companies, academic settings, and as entrepreneurs. They now have leadership training they can utilize in their profession.”

The courses are freely available to all ACS members. Some of the courses are offered in person during ACS national meetings, regional meetings, local section events, and the annual ACS Leadership Institute. Other courses are offered online, which offers attendees the flexibility of going at their own pace. Courses facilitated by experts, on the other hand, provide participants with networking opportunities.

“It’s a great member benefit,” says Carol Duane, who helped establish the Leadership Development System when she was cochair of the Board Oversight Group on Leadership Development. “Not only do attendees learn specific leadership skills; they also have the opportunity to practice the skill in their leadership role when they go out and do the activities in their local sections, divisions, and committees. It’s a very complementary way of building leaders.”

The courses focus on five core areas: personal capability, interpersonal skills, focusing on results, setting a clear direction, and character competency.

In the live courses, facilitators are volunteers from within ACS, many of whom have gone through the entire suite of courses themselves. Ajay Mallia, for example, started taking courses when he was a postdoc at Georgetown University. The training courses enabled him to take on leadership roles within his local section, the Chemical Society of Washington, as well as the Younger Chemists Committee. Now an assistant professor of chemistry at Georgia Gwinnett College, Mallia is giving back by serving as a facilitator for the courses.

Both Duane and Krannich also serve as facilitators and have taken the entire suite of courses. “Helping other people grow as leaders in the society and in their own personal career, that’s really satisfying,” Duane says.

Looking forward, Krannich says they are continuing to build on the Leadership Development System and instill a culture of leadership development throughout the society. “It’s no longer a silo,” he says. “It’s moving into an overall integration into the lives of ACS members.”

The ACS Leadership Institute, which oversees the leadership development courses, is planning a symposium titled “Leadership Development—the ACS Commitment Now and for the Future,” at the ACS national meeting in San Diego, Aug. 25–29.

For more information about the Leadership Development System and its suite of courses, visit


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