To assist those members who desire to lead a volunteer effort within SOT or are interested in holding an elected position, SOT Council members introspected on the qualifications and/or traits that resulted in an effective leader within the Society. I am pleased to share those thoughts with the membership as a guide to individuals wishing to pursue such a role.
Although there is important, but routine, business that must be addressed during Committee and Council meetings, most of the effort during those meetings is focused on strategic directions for the Society to meet its mission. Thus, important qualifications for someone in a leadership role are a commitment to the science of toxicology, a clear understanding of the Society’s mission and vision, and embracing the Society’s values. Most importantly, an effective leader must be able to think strategically and innovatively. Evidence for the latter traits might be experience providing new direction for an organization or a major research program, leveraging data to make sound decisions, or perhaps a major shift in policy in response to innovative advancements in science.
Serving as an SOT Committee leader or as a member of Council represents a significant time commitment. Most SOT Committees meet several times per year and are largely responsible for implementing the SOT Strategic Plan and the professional growth of the Society. Council meets six times per year, with all but one of those meetings traditionally being one- to two-day face-to-face meetings. Thus, evidence for a commitment to service within SOT, a willingness to devote time to the position, and an ability to work in collaborative teams is important. Good organizational skills, agility, good problem-solving skills, and an ability to effectively multi-task will result in a more effective leader within the Society
Those who have served on SOT Committees and, in particular, on Council would agree that this service is unlike service on most Committees within their institution, company, or organization. The latter often involves a hierarchical structure that is largely absent within SOT Council and Committees. Serving in an SOT leadership role means that you are often leading your peers. In this situation, an effective leader must have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and the ability or willingness to embrace the ideas and thoughts of others with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Good listening skills are important, as well as the ability to act in a diplomatic fashion with humility and authenticity.
SOT is a large organization, with more than 8,000 members who are each uniquely situated to offer their perspective and expertise to further the success of the Society. If you would like to contribute your talents to SOT but aren’t sure where or how to begin, we suggest that you start by becoming active in a Regional Chapter, Specialty Section, or Special Interest Group, each of which offer leadership opportunities for members. Volunteering within one of these Component Groups will help you build both your volunteer experience and your network. Your contributions at this level also will increase awareness of your capabilities for those in a position to nominate you for higher-level leadership roles within the Society.
Are these leadership qualifications unique to SOT? With a few exceptions, certainly not. Thus, for those aspiring to leadership roles within other organizations, institutions, and companies, taking on experiences that involve developing these traits will serve to advance your career as well as prepare you for a leadership role within our Society.