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Leading at McMaster

At McMaster, we believe in the ongoing cultivation of human potential, leveraging the diverse talents of our employees, and recognizing that everyone is a leader in their own role. Our six core Leadership Capabilities define observable abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations and traits that apply to all leadership levels.

Where are you in your leadership development journey?

Depending on the scope and influence of your current role and your career goals, your development needs will vary. Read through some ideas below and read more about our McMaster leadership levels.

Personal Leaders: Individual Contributors

Typical roles: analyst, assistant, coordinator, administrator, post doctoral fellow, research assistant

Learning focus: discovering and leading self

Key areas for development: communication, cultural competence, self-awareness

Development Ideas: volunteer committee membership, LinkedIn Learning, attending workshops and conferences (e.g., IFW), industry and technical training, job shadowing, peer mentoring

University funded programs: Personal Leaders Program, Essentials courses (Communications and Productivity streams)

Knowledge Leaders: Subject Matter Experts and New People Leaders

Typical roles: program manager, team lead, specialist, project manager, professor, associate professor

Learning focus: impact on others and leading relationships

Key areas for development: impact and influence, collaboration, innovation

Development Ideas: professional designations/certifications, networking, special cross-functional/unit assignments, mentoring, participation in communities of practice

University funded programs: Knowledge Leaders Program, New Manager Orientation, Inclusive Excellence Leadership Program, Essentials courses (Innovation and Team streams), MacPherson Institute training courses

Strategic Leaders: Experienced People Leaders

Typical roles: manager, senior manager, associate director, program or institute directors, department or associate chairs, administrative leaders

Learning focus: operational excellence and leading others

Key areas for development: strategic planning, inclusion, people management

Development Ideas: management training (e.g., DeGroote Executive Education), committee leadership, cross-campus project work, mentoring, professional association memberships

University funded programs: Strategic Leaders Program, Inclusive Excellence Leadership Program, Peer Mentoring program (new Chairs and Directors), Essentials courses (Business and Leadership streams)

Organizational and University Leaders: Leaders of Leaders

Typical roles: directors of administration, lead of a significant student or administrative service, president, vice and associate vice presidents, senior administrative officers, assistant deans, associate deans, deans

Learning focus: transformational leadership and leading culture

Key areas for development: relationship building, succession planning, innovation

Development Ideas: executive coaching, executive sponsorship of committees and communities of practice, community engagement, reverse mentoring

University funded programs: Organizational Leaders Program (in development)

Looking for more leadership development options?

Do you have a resource to share? Contact Christine Costa, Organizational Development and Design Consultant at

Executive coaching can help a leader to unlock their full potential. McMaster has engaged several external professional executive coaches to partner with academic and non-academic leaders and support their leadership development. Most engagements include a coach matching process to optimize the coach relationship. Costs vary on type of engagement depending on hourly rate of consultant. Leaders have utilized available professional development allowances or department training funds to cover related costs.

Read about the 6 Reasons Why All Leaders Need Coaching

For more information, contact Melanie Garaffa, Associate Director, Talent, Equity and Development at

Understanding yourself can help you become a more effective leader. Assessments can give you insight into areas where you need to focus more attention and help you reinforce the skills that you excel at. Assessments can be self reported or 360 (includes observations and feedback by others). Some focus on your behaviour style, while others on skills and personality. Here are some options to consider:

  • VIA Survey of Character Strengths – free self-assessment to help you understand your best qualities with actionable tips to apply your strengths to find greater well-being
  • CliftonStrengths – discover what you do best naturally and develop your strengths
  • EQi2.0 for Emotional Intelligence (self and 360 versions) – become aware of your own emotional intelligence skills to create more effective teams, build better relationships and have better communication
  • Leadership Circle Profile (360) – build awareness of your strengths and areas of development by exploring your behaviours and mindset
  • Everything DiSC – variety of assessment tools based on the DiSC model to help you become a more effective leader and help build stronger, more effective working relationships (including workplace, work of leaders and management options)
  • LEADS 360 Assessment – development feedback process based on the LEADS in Caring Environment capabilities framework for leaders in the Canadian health sector
  • Leadership PULSE 360° (Physicians Universal Leadership Skills Education) – provides feedback for physician-leaders on leadership competencies such as communication, conflict resolution, time-management, problem-solving, and motivational impact on others.
  • LeadNOW 180 – provides insights into your leadership style and key drivers of team performance.

McMaster also offers a customized 360 assessment – the Multi-Rater Assessment – as part of the Strategic Leaders Program. This assessment is based on the McMaster Leadership Capabilities and collects broad and anonymous feedback from all of the participant’s work relationships to help an individual optimize their perceived strengths and gain insight to perceived areas for development and improvement.

Explore the following options for training opportunities:

Do you have an external recommendation to share? Contact Christine Costa, Organizational Development and Design Consultant at

McMaster University funds a variety of development programs and workshops for employees (some of which are detailed above). There are also various benefits that employees can use to fund other training and development options:

Questions? Contact us!

Melanie Garaffa

Associate Director, Talent, Equity and Development