Six Key Factors to Being a Great Researcher and a Great Leader

How can a research scientist evolve into being a successful manager/leader? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Deepak Agarwal, Head of relevance and Machine Learning at LinkedIn, on Quora.

I will distinguish here between a manager and a leader and mostly talk about the transition to a leader. You can be a good manager without being a leader. A great leader may not end up managing people in some cases.

Disclaimer: I learned management on the job, so my views are entirely based on my professional journey. I was an individual contributor for a long time and transitioned to a people management role at LinkedIn about 4 years ago. I now manage a large team of roughly 200 folks. But the basic principles of leadership has remained the same for me.

A great research scientist builds brilliant technology and comes up with elegant solutions for hard problems in their respective area. But that does not necessarily make them a great leader. A leader is someone who can raise the level of work of other colleagues around them by their brilliance, by being a great listener, by having a broad view of the world, by being receptive to different ideas and solutions, by being a facilitator of discussion and collaboration among multiple groups, by inspiring people to become part of something much bigger than themselves.

Some things that can help you become a leader.

a) Start looking at the problems in its entirety, not just the data science part. Your motto should be to build great products, not just great models or algorithms.

b) Appreciate different points of views, be very open minded about things. Do not lash out at frequentists because you are a Bayesian :) Always attack the problem, not the people.

c) Be a good listener, hear folks out. Try to be patient, work hard to understand others and understand the strengths and weakness of individuals. Then inspire them to do things that leverage their strengths and instill confidence and trust in the process.

d) Be outgoing, attend conferences, seminars, workshops. Meet folks from different disciplines, function areas.

e) Hold yourself accountable and hold others accountable. Do not be passive aggressive and don't tolerate such behavior from others.

f) Learn how to communicate clearly. A leader creates a vision, then gets people around them excited about it through strong communication, and finally inspire folks to be part of that journey and execute. If necessary, get coaching. Strong communication takes time to master.

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