President's Corner: What is Idea Leadership?

Bob Peterson, Ph.D.

Bob Peterson, Ph.D.

June 19, 2019

In previous President’s Corners, I’ve used the term idea leadership alongside innovation, empowerment, advocacy, influence, intellectual capital, and platform, but I’ve never discussed it. Like many of you, I’ve seen the terms thought leadership and thought leader used over and over. In fact, thought leader is overused; it’s right up there with think out of the box. So, I wanted to use a slightly different and less frequently used term.

Idea leadership is essentially the same as thought leadership. The term is meant to reflect a couple of important attributes. We are living at a time when great ideas and execution of those ideas are everything. People who generate great ideas need leadership opportunities and also need ways to get their ideas heard and implemented.

Empowering all of you not only to have your great ideas heard but also to become leaders is key to entomology’s future. The culture of innovation that ESA is now creating will bear the fruit of idea leaders who will reshape entomology.

But leadership goes well beyond idea leadership. Regardless of your career choice or career-track, leadership skills that are not often taught as part of a formal education—especially in the sciences—are and will be incredibly valuable to your success. Author Tom Friedman has called these “STEMpathy skills.” They’ve also been referred to as “soft skills”—although everyone knows that they are hard! Examples include emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, self-awareness, talent management, self-confidence, time management, mentorship, teamwork, and patience. These leadership skills and others not only will be critical to your success, but they will also be critical to the future success of ESA and entomology.

Advocate Entomology!

Robert K. D. Peterson, Ph.D.
President, Entomological Society of America
Professor of Entomology, Montana State University

Read past editions of President's Corner.