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American Chemical Society Leadership Development System Sustains The ACS And Tomorrow’s Workforce

by Amber Hinkle , Larry Krannich
November 5, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 45

Credit: Courtesy of Amber Hinkle
Credit: Courtesy of Amber Hinkle

Simply possessing a strong technical background is insufficient for chemists to remain successful in today’s workforce. Our ability to lead, engage others, and collaborate to achieve our own goals and those of others in our organizations is essential. While the importance of chemical scientists developing these leadership and business skills is nothing new, three current workforce trends make possessing these skills more important than ever:

◾ Chemists are working increasingly on diverse, multidisciplinary teams, and success demands leadership skills to manage the distinct views and approaches among various team members’ backgrounds and disciplines.

Credit: Courtesy of Larry Krannich
Credit: Courtesy of Larry Krannich

◾ Chemists are employed more in small businesses, which demand a broader set of business skills to match the more varied and nontechnical duties inherent in small-business jobs.

◾ The employment decline in traditional chemical and pharma firms is forcing chemists to pursue nontraditional jobs—such as teaching, law, entrepreneurship, and consulting—that require greater emphasis on business and leadership skills.

Although leadership skills are in high demand in the workplace, they are often hard to develop on the job and are not the focus of traditional chemistry degree programs. Fortuitously, many of the skills employers look for when making hiring decisions are the same skills that ACS seeks in its highly valued volunteer leaders.

As part of its commitment to meet members’ career challenges through dynamic professional development offerings, the society offers a suite of leadership courses and a myriad of volunteer roles (see that provide excellent opportunities to apply and hone newly learned skills in a nonthreatening, collegial environment. These skills can be used in volunteer, business, and other professional settings.

The ACS Board of Directors recognizes the importance of developing and maintaining a volunteer leadership pipeline and providing members with access to professional career services that build portfolios for career advancement. They made substantial investment with the 2009 launch of the ACS Leadership Development System (ACS LDS) and its 2012 reauthorization. In a nutshell, ACS LDS is built on a framework of 17 courses, including 10 that are facilitated and seven that are self-paced online.

The courses focus on core leadership competency areas: Personal Capability, which concerns knowledge of ACS, networking, and innovation; Interpersonal Skills, which covers coaching and mentoring, involving others, building consensus, listening, valuing inclusiveness, dealing with conflict, and influencing others; Results Orientation, which is about taking initiative, getting others to step up, delegating, and keeping projects moving forward; and Setting a Clear Direction, which covers planning, organizing, communicating direction to others, and being decisive. A fifth, Character, is the bedrock foundation competency on which leadership rests.

Each course incorporates tools, best practices, and guidelines for achieving leadership excellence in both the workforce and ACS. Because the courses are custom designed for chemists, they address the unique leadership needs of chemical professionals whether they are on the job, in the classroom, or serving as an ACS volunteer. Moreover, ACS member volunteers who serve as facilitators have been trained and certified to teach each course. They are both your instructors and peer mentors. For student members, this affords an opportunity to enhance academic training and acquire a unique portfolio for future job or graduate school prospects.

The facilitated ACS LDS courses are offered throughout the year at local section, regional, and national meetings.

In addition, each January, the annual ACS Leadership Institute provides a weekend of intense leadership and management skills training for recently appointed or elected ACS governance leaders. Attendees come from local sections, divisions, and committees and include younger chemists and student leaders. The ACS Leadership Institute prepares new, aspiring, and experienced ACS leaders to assume their positions with confidence and a targeted knowledge of the society, their respective governance units, and their new position responsibilities. As cochairs of this event, we find the ACS Leadership Institute particularly rewarding, as we see new leaders come into the fold, develop into seasoned leaders, and reaffirm the value the society places on volunteerism. Among nonprofits, ACS is at the cutting edge in providing leadership skills training to its members.

ACS LDS supports Goal Two of the society’s strategic plan: “Empower an inclusive community of members with networks, opportunities, resources, and skills to thrive in the global economy.”

To date, enrollment in ACS LDS courses exceeds 4,000. The program lives up to the Leadership Advisory Board’s vision of building skills and creating leaders who contribute to the society’s governance, their professions, and their communities.

We look forward to your participation in the ACS leadership courses and the customized enhancement of your career portfolio during these challenging times. To learn more or sign up for a course, visit



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