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How to be a better leader: Offer guidance, not instruction
MIT's Robert Langer explains why great leadership is determined by the quality of your questions.
Robert S. Langer completed his undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering at Cornell University and obtained his Sc.D in Chemical Engineering at MIT. He joined MIT as Assistant Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry in 1978. Dr. Langer has written over 1,250 articles and also has nearly 1,050 patents worldwide. Dr. Langer's patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 250 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies.
ROBERT LANGER: I think that the teacher and the leader, they're all together. I don't think of them as distinct parts of what I do. When I run the lab I feel like I'm teaching the graduate students and the postdocs partly by example, partly "we're all in this together." And I think that they go together. My hope is that when people leave this lab they're stronger, better people. That they're leaders themselves—and that, in fact, has happened. I mean we have over 300 people who have left the lab who are professors who lead their own lab; we've had many people leave the lab who've become presidents of companies, who've started their own companies, who've become CEOs. So they've become leaders, and that's what I love to see.
Well, I don't know that there's any one set of qualities, I've seen leaders succeed in different ways, but, to me, the kinds of things I think I probably do are try to impart to the people who work for me or work with me the fact that you want to make an impact on the world, you want to make it a better place, you want to treat people well. And you want to really think that almost anything is possible.
And I guess finally the way I try to deal with people, for the most part, is try to provide what I'll call positive reinforcement. If somebody does something good I want to let them know it rather than, say, yelling at them and saying, "You should work harder!" I want people to work hard because they want to, not because they have to.
Well, the way I try to foster this idea of discovery and invention is partly by example. If somebody comes in and they're doing a thesis, I try to get them to think about, "Well, what will be important?" I might shape it in some very general way, but I want people to just think. I don't want to just say, "Here, do this," I want to be a guide.
Another way I sometimes think about it is this—because I'm dealing with graduate students and postdocs—so the way I often think about it is, if somebody is a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow, almost their entire life up until then they've been judged, say by grades or other means, by how well they give answers to other people's questions. But in life, in my opinion, what's really important is not the answers that you might give—though that's important—but the really important thing is the questions you ask. Are you asking really important questions, or are you asking medium-important questions, or unimportant questions?
I think the key to it is to help somebody go from somebody who gives good answers to somebody who asks good questions. Because, in the end, questions are going to be what's key. So that's really what I want to see.
- Good leadership means making your team or students feel that anything is possible, says Robert Langer, head of Langer Lab at MIT Department of Chemical Engineering.
- Langer speaks from his life experience, which has shown him that positive reinforcement is the best way to get people to work smarter and harder.
- Knowing the answers isn't everything; good leaders also know how to ask important questions so people can learn to think for themselves and become good question-askers in turn.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.