How to Build a STEM Leadership Team That Embraces Innovation

How to Build a STEM Leadership Team That Embraces Innovation

We all know that not a single leader is born, but made.

You become a leader by investing time, energy, and creativity into developing a wide range of skills that allow you to succeed in the modern world, and beyond that, the skills that let you empower others to succeed. This is true in every field, but especially so in the world of science, technology, engineering, and math, where innovation is the key driving force of progress. Add to that, innovation in STEM cannot happen without teamwork, without collaboration, and without leaders. This perfect STEM recipe means that we all need to put our best foot forward when it comes to rethinking our education systems as well as our business practices.

As a simple example, Elon Musk may be the face of Tesla, but hundreds of his devoted employees, his most trusted innovators deserve equal credit for bringing his and their ideas to life. Sometimes, leaders may not even be seen in the spotlight of the public eye, and yet they fuel innovation in these segments of our modern existence every single day. So, whether you’re in the business of STEM or you’re looking to join a team in the field of STEM, the following are the most effective methods to ensure healthy, powerful leadership that will yield the desired innovation results.

Build archipelagos

We’ve all said at one time or another that teamwork is vital, and that the old adage depriving us of our inner island-hood describes the very essence of the human experience: unity. In STEM, this need to let go of your desire to be an island is all the more important. When we teach our kids that it’s best for them to work alone, sit alone, and think alone, we’ll hardly give them the chance to work together or succeed together. And STEM can only thrive in archipelago-like ecosystems where collaborative creativity is loved and nurtured.

From the earliest days, it’s key to show our kids that it’s good to work together, ask for help, exchange ideas, throw hypotheses around. Or as one of our brightest minds put it, we need to question everything. With a little amendment: we need to question everything and share it with the world. STEM depends on bold questions, unexpected plot twists, and above all, trial and error. Leaders that love innovation start with the mindset of togetherness, not isolation.

Think outside of the classroom

It’s no wonder they’re all shaped like boxes. Classrooms have this uncanny ability to confine even the broadest of minds when you don’t give them the chance to love learning with the help of other tools. That is precisely why modern educators are beginning to embrace a more diversified approach to sharing knowledge and learning. Today, if students need chemistry homework help to get a better grasp of certain concepts, they can look beyond the rims of their textbooks and use educational videos with vivid examples and step-by-step tutorials.

Show them learning outside the classroom, and they won’t perceive it as a chore, but a reward of its own. Erase those learning boundaries, and you’ll give rise to STEM leaders who will always keep an open mind when coming up with the next bewildering solution.

Curiosity and problem-solving

Practically everything you do requires some form of problem-solving. Whether you’re deciding on which route to take to work, or which food to buy for your dog, life throws problems your way every minute of every day. If not, we’ll find a way to make problems out of thin air, simply because we feel the need to find answers and ask questions. In STEM, problem-solving is a part of that leadership mindset that inspires innovation.

How you think about problems and how you approach solving them will make all the difference in STEM. In a field governed by numbers, equations, and mathematical laws, it takes a specific mind to abandon those boundaries and approach a new problem from different standpoints and allow for an entirely new solution.

Collaboration over competition

Simply putting people of staggering intellectual capacity into a single room in order to find a new solution in the realm of STEM is not enough. Teams are not defined by their plurality, but by their collective preference to work together towards the same goal as opposed to in a competitive environment. Critical and analytical thinking paired with data, research, and determination needs a common driving force in the form of collaboration.

When the goal to “be better than” becomes more relevant than to “find a solution to”, there’s no room for leadership of any kind, let alone innovation. Healthy arguments are often a constructive part in the world of STEM, where questioning everything is only as effective as the team’s desire to follow through and discover that innovative solution. It comes to life not in spite of the clash of those many minds, but precisely because of them.


Working in the world of STEM calls for leaders that nurture these mindset traits, among many others. Building a leadership team in this fast-paced field comes with a learning curve as complex as the issues it wishes to solve. If you are looking to build a STEM team that will make a difference through innovative ideas, use these traits as the foundation of that team’s collaboration.

Posted by Nate Vickery

Nate Vickery

Nate Vickery is a business consultant focused mostly on SMB marketing and management. Nate is the editor-in-chief at one business blog - You can follow Nate @NateMVickery

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