Why there should be scientists in every boardroom

Scientists in the boardroom – interview with Dr. Ruby Campbell

Organisational Success Podcast

Scientists in every boardroom

Dr Ruby Campbell

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drrubycampbell/

Twitter: @ProveritasGroup

Email Ruby


David Wilkinson (00:00:00):

Today I’d like to welcome Dr. Ruby Campbell who’s written a very interesting book called Scientists in The Boardroom: Harnessing the Power of STEMM Leaders in Every Boardroom. We’re going to have a little look at that with Ruby, but before we start, do you just want to tell me something about yourself, what you do and a bit of your background and your journey and the research that you’ve been involved in?

Ruby Campbell (00:00:28):

Sure. Well, first of all, thank you for inviting me along and I’m delighted to be here, David. Yes, the book is Scientist in Every Boardroom. The emphasis every, as my editor insisted, because as I’ll get to in a minute, it’s really about ensuring that we have rational thinking in every boardroom. 

            My background is really mixed. I started out as a research scientist, research chemist in the pharmaceutical industry. I moved within the corporate world for a span of about 27 years in different roles, all within technical and scientific affairs, although I had a three-year stint in business development.

            I’ve been very lucky. I got to work on some really fascinating projects, most of them Greenfield projects, which is what I love. I got to set up the first center of excellence here in Australasia for a multinational pharmaceutical company, which earned me the privilege of being transferred to the U.S. I was there for three years and I set up, and this is in the early 1990s, I set up the contract manufacturing business for a multinational pharma out of two facilities, one in New York and the other one in Puerto Rico. That was a lot of fun. 

            Then I came back to Australia and I again ended up working on a really fascinating project with a startup biotech company, an Australian company. I was part of the executive team that went through the IPO process and got it listed on the Australian stock exchange. I set up the technical operations division, a lot of fun. 

            Then I went back to the multinational world, if you like, and headed out scientific affairs for Australasia. I ended up then sort of getting very curious about the commercial side of things, obviously because of the types of projects I was always working on, which always entailed multiple functions. I always found myself as the interpreter, if you like, sort of both sides speaking to the commercial folk and then the scientific code. 

            I ended up doing an MBA as a mature age student, so it’s an executive MBA, and that time was really life changing for me. I ended up joining the adjunct faculty of the School of Business at the University of New South Wales.

David Wilkinson (00:03:53):

[inaudible 00:03:53].

Ruby Campbell (00:03:53):

That was like I said, life changing, and that got me thinking about, well, really what’s going on with leadership. As I started to ask myself those two questions, it led me then to continue to study some more. And I ended up doing further studies in applied psychology. So I was very privileged to study with the late Professor Anthony Grant, who was the founder of the first coaching psychology unit at the University of Sydney. So, yeah, a very, very interesting and windy career, but one that I feel really privileged to have and cherish very much because I get to work with executives.

David Wilkinson (00:04:53):

Yeah, I was wondering how you’d made that transition from being a chemist into the coaching world that I know you in. That makes a lot of sense. Brilliant. 

Ruby Campbell (00:05:05):

Gd. Yeah. 

David Wilkinson (00:05:09):

So the book, what was it that kind of brought you to writing the book? What led up to that?

Ruby Campbell (00:05:20):

Look, David, every big endeavor, whether you’re starting up your own company or your own journal or writing a book, it’s a product of a lot of experiences, and a lot of insights. So for me, it was a long journey. It was sort of always questioning, always asking what’s going on? This doesn’t make sense. I think it was that need to make sense of things as we say, in coaching psychology, meaning-making. It was out of a need to make sense. [crosstalk 00:06:11]-

David Wilkinson (00:06:12):

What specifically, wasn’t making sense? Was it about the leadership or organizations?

Ruby Campbell (00:06:19):

All of the above organize. [inaudible 00:06:22] organizations. I’ve been very lucky to have worked with many organizations. I’ve also chaired non-for-profit organizations. I’ve sat on boards, I’ve worked with the United Nations. I started from the bottom in the lab and isn’t it sad that even I call it the bottom? But that’s what the world calls it. 

            Through that trajectory, I just started to see so many incongruencies, and I just decided that we just were not really hitting the mark when it comes to developing our leaders. That sounds really arrogant because I’m not claiming that I have all the answers, not at all. I’m just building on what other researchers and practitioners have developed and continue to develop, and I thought I had something to contribute.

David Wilkinson (00:07:37):

Yeah. There’s definitely a difference quite often between the way a scientist thinks and sees the world, and people within organizations who don’t have a science background kind of view the world, view data, view decision-making and those kinds of activities. I get what you’re saying that there’s a big difference there between those two kind of worlds, I suppose. And because you were sat in between those two worlds, operating in both sides, I can see why you would start to realize those problems. Brilliant. 

            Okay. So what’s what I find interesting is you actually started out writing a book that was originally about coaching for ethical leadership. So how did that switch happen?

Ruby Campbell (00:08:29):

A lot of people who are reading the book, they say, “How did you know?” But I think that it was almost like a massive detour. So I was working on ethical leadership and then 2016 happened, that’s the presidential election in the United States. I was born in the U.S. I’m an American citizen by birth, but I’m an Australian citizen by descent.

David Wilkinson (00:09:12):

Yeah, all right, [inaudible 00:09:13]. 

Ruby Campbell (00:09:15):

Yeah, so my whole family, my extended family, they’re there in the U.S. my sister and nieces, nephews. I still currently hold an American passport. I remember the day after, and I was having lunch with a highly, probably the most referenced psychologist of our time, Professor Richard Ryan, from self-determination theory, and he now heads up a research unit at the Australian Catholic University. But back then, he was still at the University of Rochester, New York. 

            We were having lunch and I remember how the somber mood. He was heartbroken, and I was more than heartbroken. I was emotional, I was in tears. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but we were just commiserating. 

            As I continued to research and to work and to watch what was happening and writing, I could see this very palpable antagonism against science. He started to undo a lot of the work that had taken decades to implement, to protect the environment, and change many, many other regulations. And without getting into politics, although as I mention in the book, it is wrong for scientists not to get involved in politics. It’s high time that scientists did get involved, as Albert Einstein said. 

            So it was an aha moment to be honest, David. It was also as I started to read more about the alarming lack of action with regards to climate change, and I are now speaking about Australia, and I just started to feel like I could no longer be an observer. Even though I’m a coach and you would think, “Well, you are doing something. You are contributing you are work coaching leaders. Clearly as a coach, you cannot influence your clients on your own values and your own views. You’re supposed to respect their values and their their goals.

            So I thought, “Well, there, there is something else I can do. I can apply my research skills and my writing skills. Also as I kept researching and the Oxford review helped me tremendously to identify a pattern in terms of who was being promoted to CEO and to a leader of a nation. That research that you helped with was an eyeopener. 

            So as I kept exploring and digging and investigating, It just hit me, and I thought, “Holy moly, there is.” Of course, then I started to look at what was happening in Australia with Australian politics and Australian leadership. Then all of a sudden I saw this global pattern off elevating a certain kind of leader, and discarding, because that’s what’s happening, discarding those leaders that don’t fit the mold. The word that came to mind was group think, and lack of diversity, that then helped me realize, “Wow, we are facing all of these global risks as a result of lack of cognitive diversity,” which as I was reviewing one of your brilliant research reports on team diversity and team performance, as you rightly pointed out. 

            First, there is this superficial level of diversity that we’ve grown accustomed to, but then there is a deeper level of diversity that we really should be looking at. I’ve chosen to call it cognitive diversity because it kind of picks up everything, but there is a lot more to be said a lot, a lot more to be researched in that space. 

David Wilkinson (00:14:45):

Yeah, so just for people who haven’t read it, but what we’re talking about here is kind of surface Level diversity, which is around skin color. The deeper levels are around about how people think, how they perceive things, how they interact with things, that there’s a whole series of different levels of diversity that make more of a difference, and it’s got nothing really to do with people’s skin color. It’s about what’s going on in here and also in the heart. 

Ruby Campbell (00:15:22):

That’s right. 

David Wilkinson (00:15:22):

How interesting. 

Ruby Campbell (00:15:25):

That’s right. As a coach, and this is the beautiful thing about coaching psychology, it’s no longer an emerging discipline. It is a discipline that is starting to mature, and there’s so much research happening all over the world. I’m currently studying with Peter Hawkings and David Clutterbuck from Henley Business School in the U.K. 

David Wilkinson (00:16:05):

Yeah, I know [crosstalk 00:16:05].

Ruby Campbell (00:16:07):

And we’re actually talking about the team processes that are necessary to ensure that you have the right kind of diversity that will lead to positive organizational results and outcomes. Part of that, David, and this is an essential part of it, we need STEMM people in teams because they bring something different to the table. 

David Wilkinson (00:16:40):

Okay, what’s that?

Ruby Campbell (00:16:43):

Well, funny you should ask. In my book, on page 57, I call it the STEMM leadership advantage. I’m not saying that we should get rid of other leaders and only have STEMM leaders. That would be a technocracy, and that’s not what we are recommending. We’re saying that we want in the leadership circles, whether it be in government, academia, or the corporate sector, whether it’s profit or non-for-profit, there is great benefit to be derived by having people from STEMM backgrounds. The reason for that, and you might want to then ask me, what does STEMM stand for?

David Wilkinson (00:17:45):

That was going to be my next question so people know.

Ruby Campbell (00:17:49):

STEMM is an acronym, and my STEMM has two Ms. So S is for science, T is for technology, E is for engineering. The first M is for mathematics and the second M is for medical research or medicine. Of course, I’m a very inclusive person, so I thought let’s include the medical scientist as well.

David Wilkinson (00:18:19):

Yeah, and just to be clear, this is not about replacing leaders with STEMM leaders. It’s about increasing the diversity of leadership within organizations to include them because largely they tend not to end up in leadership positions. Is that what you’re saying?

Ruby Campbell (00:18:40):

Well, that’s correct. That’s right. Something that I talk about in my book as I use case studies and these are amalgams of many, many clients, but there are two particular individuals that I talk about throughout the book. But what the data shows, and when I say data, this is research from all over the world, the UN, the UNESCO, the Peer Research Center, and many other organizations is that, people with a STEMM background, that’s not the only thing. It’s also other personality traits that contribute to STEMM individuals being left out of the decision making conversation. So characteristically, very analytical, and they have complex problem solving skills. 

            At this stage of humanity in the 21st century, and I talk about this extensively in my book week, we, we being people who follow the World Economic Forum and Davos conversations, the chairman of the WEF has coined the term Fourth Industrial Revolution. That’s characterized by never seen before scientific and technological advances. Never seen before. What is about to come is something that is going to redefine reality for all of us, not just most of us, all of us. And the research shows that our current leaders are not equipped to make decisions that are accurate or fast enough. Those two things; accuracy and speed, and you can see that. You can see that with the pandemic, you can see that with climate change, and many other global risks that are mentioned in my book.

David Wilkinson (00:21:24):

Yeah. What I see in the UK a lot, and what we’re seeing, particularly with industry 4.0 and just for people, what we’re talking about is a group of technologies that are starting to become part of the decision-making apparatus. So we’ve got AI, machine learning and a whole series of other robotics and things that are starting to enter into the workplace on a significant level, that’s starting to change the world of work. So, that’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about industry 4.0. 

            So we’re seeing quite a number of examples in the UK. For example, there was a decision made by one of our MPS, the father of the house, to recall everybody in the middle of the epidemic to vote in person whilst everybody’s meant to be social distancing whilst before that they were doing it virtually. It’s like, there’s this kind of anti-technology thinking that’s going on, with a group of leaders who don’t understand it and don’t like it, and yet these technologies are having huge impact.

            In fact, I’ve just written, yesterday, a research briefing around AI and machine learning and the impact that it’s starting to have on people’s trust of decisions. Because a lot of these algorithms are actually making decisions in the workplace, and if we have leaders that don’t understand that, and don’t understand what’s inside those things, we’ve got real problems because-

Ruby Campbell (00:23:10):

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. 

David Wilkinson (00:23:11):

… they’re not seeing some of the issues that are cropping up with it, and some of them are just blindly accepting it. Anyway, sorry.

Ruby Campbell (00:23:21):

But to add to that, David, and it’s interesting that you call it industry 4.0, and I think it’s interesting how every country they’ll latch on to a different term. Over here, it’s the fourth industrial revolution, which is the term that I’ve decided to use in my book. It’s not just the artificial intelligence and alternative and artificial reality, it’s also genome editing. 

            Now, I come from the pharmaceutical industry from a medical research background, and I still work very heavily in that space. What is happening in that world is mind boggling and our leaders don’t understand it. They don’t understand what it means. Genome editing, they don’t understand. They think, well, they just go by science fiction movies. That’s their idea. That’s how they conceptualize research. 3D printing, and again, they’ll go buy some current affairs show that they’ll watch and that’s how they base their decisions. There is a massive lag time when you have leaders around the table who don’t have … I’m not talking about familiarity. I’m not talking about reading Scientific American or New Scientist. I’m talking about people who are trained in STEMM, because there is a different aspect to the way that we view things. We are trained. It is innate in us. When I say innate after many years of development, of course, and studying it is innate. We think mathematically, we’re trying to see patterns, patterns that maybe other fields may not see. Say for example, lawyers may not see which is from the politicians. They usually come from that field. So there is a massive disconnect at the moment. 

            The consequences are very serious, very, very serious, which I talk about extensively in my book. Consequences that have been highlighted by the United Nations in the Global Risks Report for many years, and our leaders ignore that.

David Wilkinson (00:25:57):

They are. Just from one of the areas that I’ve got interested in around, because I’m a psychologist, around the manipulation of minds and how certain political parties are actually using social media and things in order to manipulate the way people vote, the way people think on a scale that we’ve never been able to do before. We just look at the scandal over Cambridge Analytica. Now people think that because Cambridge Analytica is no longer, that the problem has gone away. It hasn’t. 

            One of the things that I’m particularly interested in is, how politicians are viewing right issue around psychological manipulation. The vast majority of them, they’re not even on the starting blocks. So if we don’t understand that, and that’s just at one level of science with genomics and a number of other ones, if you don’t understand it, how do you actually engage in kind of social movement of changing things so that we’re not being manipulated, that we’re not getting into a situation where democracy is being hacked.

Ruby Campbell (00:27:20):

That’s right. 

David Wilkinson (00:27:21):

And that’s just at a political level. How do politicians and leaders make decisions if they don’t understand the science? Because the science is not coming, it’s here and it’s making a difference.

Ruby Campbell (00:27:36):

Well, the science has always been here. It’s always been here and we’ve changed in the last 50 years, and have elevated the salesman as leader/ 

David Wilkinson (00:27:55):

Yeah, that’s a good observation. 

Ruby Campbell (00:27:55):

Yes and this is … There’s a lot of studies by sociologists that I talk about in my book, and again, yeah, at the risk of sounding like I am being too harsh on the U.S. and let’s keep in mind that I’m an American by birth, this really started in the United States, in the early 1900s. And after the industrial revolution, something very interesting started to happen in politics. It was more about the capitalist mindset, and I’m not criticizing capitalism because I think it is the system that we’ve all adapted to. So it is really about being more balanced and not pursuing wealth at the expense of other stakeholders. That’s what I like about the term the fourth industrial revolution. 

            What we are now saying to leaders, “Hey, we have been pursuing this model of the shareholder value and always been the shareholder at the top, but that has really sacrificed other stakeholders. The other stakeholders are the environment and the underrepresented in society and the animals and plants and what we’re observing with mass extinctions. So we need a different narrative and a different way of interpreting capitalism, and what the book is it’s about is making sure that we have other thoughts around the table, and scientists. I can do this for myself, I’m both a physical scientist and a social scientist, and I was never trained to we love wealth. My training was to pursue the truth, to look for the truth, to look for the facts, and to love learning for the sake of learning. 

David Wilkinson (00:30:45):

Yes, [crosstalk 00:30:46]. 

Ruby Campbell (00:30:47):

That really is how scientists are wired, whether you’re a [inaudible 00:30:50] scientist or a physical scientist. But if you only put people in leadership who come from sales and marketing or economics, or [inaudible 00:31:04] you would just get group think. You wd only get a one-track mind. You will only pursue certain goals and not consider the rest of humanity.

David Wilkinson (00:31:18):

Yeah, and the wider picture, because we live in an ecosystem and if that ecosystem goes down, we go down with it. Anyway, yes, absolutely. So in the book you talk about the science of leadership, and science being an acronym. So what do you mean by that and why is it important?

Ruby Campbell (00:31:42):

Yes. Being obviously a scientist in the soul, I wanted to come up with an acronym that will resonate with other scientists. There is nothing worse for scientists to be given an acronym. We don’t like acronyms. We think they’re cheesy. I remember when I started to do the MBA and everything was an acronym, that this model, that that model, whatever model, I really had to change my mindset and stop laughing in lectures thinking, “What? This is ridiculous.” We think in formulas and this floor and that … We were trying to remember formulas and equations. So I thought, “Well, what can I do to help build a bridge and also help my fellow scientists remember this?” I came up with science and I thought, “Brilliant.” 

            Really, each letter represents a set of … It’s a pillar, if you like,, and each pillar, under each pillar is an umbrella of different tools. So the S stands for self-knowledge development. Yes, it is quite an extensive framework, but the gist of it is that it basically gives you a very systematic approach to helping leaders. 

            In fact, this model applies to any leader, not just scientist. I just called it science, as I said, to appeal to my STEMM colleagues, but it can apply to any leader who is transitioning from one level to another. So if you’re going from supervisor to manager, manager to director, director to chief operating officer, or vice president or president, you’re really going through massive changes, so logically as well as cognitively. 

            Those transitions need to be managed. Sadly, what we do is, we provide someone based on their technical competence, they’re very good at … for example, an accountant, brilliant accountant, and then they get promoted to financial comptroller or CFO. All of a sudden they are expected to lead, to inspire them, to set a vision. They don’t know how the hell to do that. So this model takes any leader through the steps to actually develop the skills and capabilities to be able to lead effectively. 

David Wilkinson (00:34:55):

Yep. Great. Do you just want to talk us very quickly through what the acronym means? So we’ve got SCIENCE-

Ruby Campbell (00:35:06):

[inaudible 00:35:06]-

David Wilkinson (00:35:06):


Ruby Campbell (00:35:07):

It’s self-knowledge development. That is really about knowing yourself. So we work with the client, all the team [inaudible 00:35:22] develop greater self awareness, and so understand their own personality traits, their strengths, values. 

David Wilkinson (00:35:24):

Yeah, and there’s a lot of research evidence to support that this is a key attribute, this development of self-awareness. It’s the foundation for further development, anyway. Sorry [inaudible 00:35:45]-

Ruby Campbell (00:35:45):

[crosstalk 00:35:45].

David Wilkinson (00:35:45):

Carry on. 

Ruby Campbell (00:35:46):

Without that, you’re just spinning the wheels. So like you said, there is a lot that can be covered under that. I talk about it in my book and also in the back section of the book, there’s a table where I actually provide the different models and remodel that [inaudible 00:36:11] evidence-based. 

David Wilkinson (00:36:12):

Yeah. It’s very good. 

Ruby Campbell (00:36:16):

The C is conceptualize mental complexity. A lot of people would say, “What on earth is that?” Well that [inaudible 00:36:26] maturity. Again, there are some really nifty tests that we can use to help a client understand, “Right, I have a socialized mind,” which is a follower versus a self-authoring mind, which is sort of a middle leader versus a self-transforming mind, which is a major leader. Somebody who leads because he or she wants to make a difference.

            The I in SCIENCE is investigate leadership style and capability. Now, I would imagine that your readers would know a great deal about the different leadership styles, because you do some brilliant reports in that space. In my book, I talk about the leadership models that have been researched, and the ones that you can actually say, “Okay, well, [inaudible 00:37:30] there are recent organizational connection to outcomes.” 

            Of course being an executive coach, I’ve actually also captured a lot of work that we’ve done in coaching psychology, in conceptualizing essential leadership capabilities. But that really comes from coaching psychology.

            E is for emotional intelligence enhancement. There are many models that are research and evidence [inaudible 00:38:11] one I like using is Daniel Goldman’s, because it’s really approachable, really accessible. It’s easy to understand, and that is self-explanatory. We need to have emotional intelligence if we are to engage with others. 

            I just want to a point here that when I started writing this book, and I would attend a conference and talk to other coaches and other colleagues and we’d start talking, “Oh, what are you working on?” I would say, “I am writing a book on coaching STEMM leaders.” They wd tell me, “Please, please, please do that. We need that desperately.” I wd say, “Why is that?” Sadly, their description of the STEMM individuals, regardless of field, was far from favorable. To me, that really showed the stereotypes and the biases that exist already in society that we have to unlearn. 

            So when I talk about developing emotional intelligence, I’m not coming from a position of deficiency. I’m actually saying, “You know what? Everyone, we all need to develop emotional intelligence-

David Wilkinson (00:39:37):

Yeah, without a doubt.

Ruby Campbell (00:39:40):

Because if scientists remain behind, if scientists are being sort of left behind closed doors, so to speak, so that the decisions get made by the leaders, there is something in there in terms of reciprocal emotional … How about if those others who are maybe strongly extroverted make an effort to engage with the slightly more introverted scientists.

David Wilkinson (00:40:10):

Yup, and certainly from my own research area, which is around uncertainty, the areas of emotional intelligence and particularly emotion regulation skills, have been shown time and time again, to underpin people’s ability to be able to deal, cope with uncertainty, fast changing situations, and things like that. The whole idea of emotion regulation, particularly is frequently left out of the syllabus for leadership development. It’s a problem because it really doesn’t depend people’s ability to be able to deal with A, difficult situations, but also uncertainty as well. So yeah, I would just second that without a doubt.

Ruby Campbell (00:41:06):

Yeah, that’s right. There’s some really good work that is coming out from mindfulness work and mindfulness research. I really like ACT, so acceptance and communal therapy, a whole umbrella of tools. They’ve come up with psychological flexibility as a term, which I find really it’s easy for my clients to understand. We cover emotional relation in there. I completely agree with you, Dave.

David Wilkinson (00:41:49):

And the whole idea of cognitive flexibility is kind of a bit of a game changer in the narrative particularly for coachees. So as they start to think about that, and that idea of being able to be flexible here about the way they’re perceiving things, understanding that it is a perception and that, I’m going back to this whole thing about cognitive diversity really, and the importance of cognitive diversity in decision making and within organizations, and quite often that’s missed out. As you say, group think, we ended up with people being promoted because they fit the system-

Ruby Campbell (00:42:34):

That’s right. 

David Wilkinson (00:42:35):

… but it doesn’t create that diversity. And certainly, again, going back to the research that I’ve been doing around dealing with uncertainty, that cognitive diversity is key so the people … There’s about 2% of the population who are really, really good with uncertainty. What you find that they do when they approach a situation is, the first thing they do is they say, “I don’t know what’s going on here.” That’s so important. 

            Then what they do is, they go about this data collection process from a huge diversity of people. Not just the people around them, they’ll go to the cleaner, they’ll go to people out in the street. They’ll want to know how they’re perceiving the world because it’s valuable data. Then they start to work out what the patterns are, what they’re seeing, what the emergent properties are from that point of view. 

            What tends to happen before that, so the other 98% is that, they tend to look at a situation and make their decision about what’s happening rather than collecting the data first from that diversity. So, yeah, again, I kind of second that.

Ruby Campbell (00:42:35):

I like that. 

David Wilkinson (00:43:47):

Yeah, brilliant. 

Ruby Campbell (00:43:48):

What’s really interesting about what you’re just saying, David, if I can just connect then to the other aspects of the model, and that why none of these concepts should stand on their own. They’re all interconnected, and it could be iterative, so it may look like it’s sequential. The only one that should come first is self-knowledge development. Everything else really can be iterative and it can be [inaudible 00:44:20]. 

            But if I can just connect what-

David Wilkinson (00:44:23):

Yes, please. 

Ruby Campbell (00:44:24):

… [inaudible 00:44:24] to the conceptualized mental complexity, I have been looking at some brilliant research. It’s in early days, early stages, trying to connect the relationship between mental complexity, i.e. maturity, which comes from adult development theory, as you know, through cognitive flexibility and then psychological flexibility. So other relationships between all of those. It’s really brilliant. It’s really brilliant stuff. 

            So when I sit with a client, I have such a massive library of [inaudible 00:45:17] of tools. And in the dialogue, in the narrative, coaches like myself, and I’ll come to that a little bit later on about what that means, we’re trained to not just listen and try to make everything positive and [inaudible 00:45:42]. We are … that’s linear thinking. We’re thinking, “Okay, where is this client in his or her adult development trajectory? What is the level of mental complexity? Are they really equipped to have the level of cognitive flexibility required for this kind of leadership position? Do they have the [inaudible 00:46:13] flexibility to deal with the uncertainty that is now in place in leadership everywhere?” So the answer is no. In majority of cases, the answer is no. 

            So in the coaching programs that we work on, we are constantly looking at all those things and trying to conceptualize whether it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s co-created, it’s not being led by me. It’s the client and me. Of course it’s also supplemented by maybe some skills training, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s a very nuanced process and framework.

            Which then brings me to the N in the acronym, in SCIENCE. N is for nurturing resilience and wellbeing. It’s all very well and good to know all of this stuff, but if you don’t have the resources, the emotional resources, the mental resources and the physical resources to undertake all of this, to flex when you’re supposed to flex, then no matter how much you know, you will just come unstuck.

            So in that space, in nurturing resilience and wellbeing, once upon a time, a lot of people used to say, “Oh, leaders, that’s what differentiates them.” I would dare say that now everybody, I disagree that leaders need to be more resilient. I’m a great believer that a leader is only as good as his or her followers. 

David Wilkinson (00:48:06):

I’d go one stage further actually, because certainly what’s coming out of the research that we’re reviewing is, there’s a huge shift in teams towards shared leadership. 

Ruby Campbell (00:48:17):


David Wilkinson (00:48:18):

So just because somebody hasn’t got the title as leader, in today’s work world, there are going to be times when they’re working on projects that they are going to be leading.

Ruby Campbell (00:48:33):

That’s true.

David Wilkinson (00:48:34):

Having these capabilities, and also having this diversity within the teams is being shown time and time and time again in studies, to be critical to team success. So, yeah, carry on. Sorry. There’s so much stuff.

Ruby Campbell (00:48:51):

[inaudible 00:48:51]. But it is very valuable what you’re adding to the conversation because I couldn’t agree more. The way of the future, it’s always been teams, the wisdom of teams. One of the brilliant things about STEMM leadership, the STEMM leadership advantage, again from page 57 and 58 is that, we are accustomed to working in teams. We do not do work on our own. 

            When I started working in the lab. It was always a team. My experiments would not work unless so and so had done this and this and this and that. And we’re always sharing information openly, openly. That’s just how we’re wired. So there is definitely a lot of advantages to hiring STEMM leaders for those senior positions, because they already bring a lot, that mindset of collaboration.

David Wilkinson (00:49:54):

Yeah, and developing STEMM researchers into leaders as well so that they’re starting to think about becoming leaders-

Ruby Campbell (00:50:03):

[crosstalk 00:50:03]. 

David Wilkinson (00:50:03):

… because certainly, because I work in the [inaudible 00:50:07] sciences division, and people get involved in their research and they think about their research career. What they very rarely think about is also developing as managers and leaders. That’s becoming increasingly critical from that aspect as well as organizations starting to engage more with STEMM professionals because they’re bringing something to the table. It’s very, very valuable.

Ruby Campbell (00:50:34):

Absolutely. That brings me to the C of SCIENCE, which is [inaudible 00:50:41] transition process. That is a sort of like a place holder for the leader to then stop for a moment and reassess their identity. Because when we are going through this transition, like you just pointed out, you’re a researcher, which we really value that title of researcher. Not because of ego, but because it is what we love doing, and all of a sudden you get promoted to a position of leadership and that title of research may get stripped off of you. That can really affect a lot of STEMM leaders in ways they don’t talk about. I certainly went through it myself. So in coaching, obviously we draw significantly from psychology and psychotherapy and we then provide some interventions for the leader to then start to bring together those multiple identities and internalize those different identities, that it’s okay to be a manager and also a scientist and also a researcher and also a leader and maybe a business leader and maybe a social leader. That it is okay, that it’s not one or the other. [crosstalk 00:52:26]-

David Wilkinson (00:52:26):

Yeah, and it’s also okay for there to be tensions between those things and to recognize those tensions and just to allow them to be. Quite often what I find is, both leaders and organizations rush to try to negate the tension. Sometimes that’s a mistake. Just recognizing and allowing it to be for a while to understand what the emergent properties of that are, and what it’s doing, which is kind of a consolidation piece itself. Quite often, I find in organizations is they’re moving so fast. They don’t have time to consolidate. They don’t sit back and say, “Right. Okay. What does all this mean? Where is it all going?” They miss a lot. Particularly in times of change, they’re not seeing those emergent properties.

Ruby Campbell (00:53:15):

Absolutely. Right. I’m glad that you pointed that out because especially in that place of consolidating [inaudible 00:53:24] process, I provide a model that is derived from MBTC, which is mindfulness based cognitive therapy. It is about training the brain to stop, and observe. I’m an observer, [inaudible 00:53:43] psychological flexibility. It is learning to hold yourself as an observer, not known as this one identity and it’s fixed, but rather you learn to stand back and just view it as it unfolds. 

            Like you said, and I really, really liked that term, that expression that you used is [inaudible 00:54:09] sitting with attention, and I use that a lot in my coaching conversations with my clients. We talk about, and again, psychological flexibility, it is about actually turning towards potential rather than avoiding it because we are, particularly in the last few 50 years or so, we’ve been trained to just reframe so quickly and everything has to be positive, everything is great, everything … and we’re supposed to just move on, move on. But there’s a lot of unlearning that takes place in the coaching process and …

David Wilkinson (00:54:54):

Seem to have frozen. Someone on the line?

Ruby Campbell (00:54:59):

… with curiosity and also with a little compassion. 

David Wilkinson (00:55:01):


Ruby Campbell (00:55:01):

A little compassion. 

David Wilkinson (00:55:02):

Yeah, compassion for others and compassion for ourselves.

Ruby Campbell (00:55:09):

[inaudible 00:55:09]. So then that brings me to the E on enable sustainable change. That’s where I actually introduced the smart goals. So we identified the intentions and the [inaudible 00:55:24] direction, but the actual learning agenda cannot come a little bit further down the track mostly towards the end. 

David Wilkinson (00:55:36):

Yes. Yep. Brilliant, fantastic. Great. Thank you. So if you were to pull out just one main lesson, and this is a horrible thing to do to an author, I’ve had it done to me so now it’s turn to get my own back here. So if you were to pull out the one lesson that people could take away from the book, what would it be?

Ruby Campbell (00:56:03):

That we need to reconceptualize leadership.

David Wilkinson (00:56:09):

Yep, okay.

Ruby Campbell (00:56:11):

That we need a different approach to developing our leaders. 

David Wilkinson (00:56:17):

Yep, [crosstalk 00:56:18]. 

Ruby Campbell (00:56:19):

And I had the audacity of proposing a way. 

David Wilkinson (00:56:25):

No, it’s brilliant. And certainly bringing science into the boardroom, and that way of critical thinking I think is imperative. It’s certainly needed big time and is needed within organizations, it’s needed politically. It just comes back to how we kind of started all of this on the call, which is around having diversity within the boardroom. This isn’t about replacing anybody, it’s about increasing the diversity and bringing the skills of STEMM scientists into the boardroom so that their skills and their capabilities can be used. 

            Certainly from the research that’s going on around leadership and organizational development and things like that is, it gives organizations a significant competitive advantage. We’re seeing this with kind of biotech organizations and things that do naturally have STEMM leaders involved in their boardrooms and bring together with the more traditional leaders. They become very powerful conduits for the organization for moving it forward and moving it into new spaces, particularly in times of change. That’s brilliant. 

Ruby Campbell (00:57:51):

Absolutely. I think that for me when I started out as a chemist, what I first thought was, I was going to be an environmental chemist. I gave a presentation to the business school on global warming, and I was laughed out of the lecture room. This is 1990, when I presented alternative energy sources. They were just laughing and I thought, “Well, I need to make a living so there’s no way I’m going to become an environmental chemist.” So I moved to the dark side and became a pharmaceutical [inaudible 00:58:45]. 

David Wilkinson (00:58:45):

[inaudible 00:58:45]. 

Ruby Campbell (00:58:48):

I say that lightly because I love the pharmaceutical industry. The real scientists that want to do good have really changed the world. I’m not talking about the marketing machine. I have no time. Well, I do have time for it. I just understand what drives it. That again is talked about in the book in terms of that unbridled capitalism that has become so different in the last 50 years, [inaudible 00:59:21] less and less and less safety nets and less control and less regulation. So I really believe that it is high time, it is urgent, it is critical that we completely reevaluate and change completely how we are developing our leaders. It’s a must, it’s not a nice-to-do. Leadership matters. Leaders are so important. 

            We only have one planet and whether we like it or not, we are affected by the decisions made by our leaders. So we need more balanced and more rational thinking at the key decision-making tables. I’m not talking about … and I’m taking your point about biotech companies that are very successful, and they have STEMM leaders on the boards. There’s a lot of them already in Australia as well, particularly in IT where I do a lot of work. I’m really talking about sort of the mammoth companies, the ones that are really influencing the world, and the ones that are driving the political agenda, if you know what I mean. That’s where we really do need a different kind of leader. So once we start to see that, I dare say that we will start to de-risk what is currently threatening our planet. 

            I have a child, you have children. You asked me what drove me to write this book. I was being purely professional, but if I spoke to you as a multidimensional human being, and I’ve given these talks at UN meetings and conferences. What really, really drives me is, the fact that I feel ashamed that we are leaving the world in the state that it is, that we’re giving the world the way it is to the next generation. My son comes from school and says, “Mom, how could your generation have done that?” 

David Wilkinson (01:02:05):

Yeah. Yeah. I couldn’t agree … Our generation have to take responsibility for what we’re handing on to the next generation, and at the moment we’re not. Personally, I think it’s criminal. 

Ruby Campbell (01:02:21):

It is criminal. I had to really … My editor just kept taking stuff out of my book because he kept [inaudible 01:02:30] is a business book. You want it to sell. You want the [inaudible 01:02:34] to read and not throw it out. But I was very tempted to use words like that, and I had to bite my tongue. Yeah, just between you and I, David it is criminal, it’s immoral. 

David Wilkinson (01:02:50):

Yep. I think so as well. Yeah. Brilliant. Okay. Thank you so much, Ruby. This has been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the book. I’ll put the links to the book in the show notes. The book is Scientists in Every Boardroom: Harnessing the Power of STEMM Leaders in Every Boardroom. Now Ruby, if our members want to contact you how can they do so?

Ruby Campbell (01:03:18):

Please feel free to do so. Just jump on my website, www.proveritas.com.au. If you want to email me, feel free to do so at rcampbell, all one word, [email protected]. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. So I’ll probably send you some slides that maybe you can include in the podcast if anybody wants to send me a note. I would be delighted to hear from your audience. I was actually thinking that if I am contacted, the first five people that contact me I will send them a signed copy of my book. 

David Wilkinson (01:04:24):

Oh, cool. That’s really nice. Thank you very much. So I’ll put links to all of the ways to contact you, the social media and the website and everything in the show notes. As you can see, Ruby is very open to these conversations, and the book’s very, very good. Great. Thank you very much, Ruby. I really appreciate your time, and for everything that you’ve given us during the during our conversation. Thank you very much.

Ruby Campbell (01:04:57):

[crosstalk 01:04:57]. I really enjoyed this interview. Thank you. Thank you very much for [inaudible 01:05:02] input. 

David Wilkinson (01:05:02):

No, no. It’s a pleasure. Take care. Bye.

Ruby Campbell (01:05:04):

You too. Bye-bye.

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page