LEAP prepares the future leaders in Synthetic biology to be leaders in their field.

I used to think of leadership primarily as picking a direction to go and marshalling resources to move in that direction. I have a much greater appreciation for the skills involved in choosing a worthy direction, inspiring people to travel with you, and generating useful outcomes along the way.
— LEAP Fellow

Our survey analysis revealed some important trends among this class of LEAP Fellows about the most valued aspect of the program and areas of improvement.

  • The program was highly valuable for Fellows’ personal and professional development. The most valuable aspect of the program was creating a network among the Fellows and the broader LEAP mentor and organizer community. Fellows also highly valued the facilitation of feedback and professional skills development provided by the Leadership Workshop and peer reviews of their Strategic Action Plans. They also appreciated the accountability for advancing their ideas and plans that resulted from participating in the program.
  • Fellows’ ideas on opportunities and needs evolved over the course of the program as evidenced by changes in the goals and execution of their Strategic Action Plans. Some Fellows formed new collaborative teams, and most reported increased confidence in their plans. The majority of Fellows intend to pursue their projects past the program’s end.
  • Participants’ definitions of leadership in the public interest evolved and expanded over the course of the program. Fellows came to recognize and appreciate more interpersonal leadership attributes and a greater diversity of leadership roles.
  • The program was able to provide Fellows with an enhanced awareness of the broader context of the field and professional leadership skills, although the specific areas of learning varied among Fellows. Fellows felt they had high leadership aspirations throughout the program and many felt more equipped to take on that role by the program end. The program was able to provide them with a greater situational awareness for the field and its social context and new ideas and strategies for how to shape its evolution. However, the most lasting value was the community of trusted peers across organizations that will last far beyond the program’s end.

Overall Program Value

At the end of the Fellowship, Fellows were asked to rate the extent to which they found the program valuable and which elements were the most valuable (Not Valuable, A Little Valuable, Somewhat Valuable, Very Valuable or Extremely Valuable).

Fellows overwhelmingly thought that the program was very or extremely valuable as a whole, and in furthering both their personal and professional development.

Networking was the most valued part of the program, with connections to other Fellows, the organizing team, and the mentors and invited guests rated as very or extremely valuable. 

The Leadership Workshop was the most highly rated program element, with the preparation and review of Strategic Action Plans before and after the workshop also highly rated.

Key Benefits

As a leadership incubator, LEAP aims to increase Fellows’ broader awareness and appreciation of the people, ideas, and challenges in biotechnology, and give them an opportunity to reflect on their current and future role within the field. Fellows were asked to rate the extent to which the workshops and program as a whole led to a number of benefits and outcomes (Not At All, To A Slight Extent, To A Moderate Extent, To A Great Extent, or To An Exceptional Extent).


Fellows felt the program benefitted them in a number of areas to a great or exceptional extent. The benefits the program was best able to provide were an expanded professional network, and an increased awareness of key people, organizations and challenges facing the field.  The Fellows also felt they had new ideas and strategies for advancing their goals, the goals of the field, and societal goals; an opportunity to reflect on their own goals and values; and an appreciation of the connections between science, technology and society. They also felt an increased confidence in their ideas and abilities.

professional leadership skills


Leading successful projects in the public interest requires thinking through the outcomes, and implications of these projects, as well as working with and generating support from others. Fellows were asked about their skills in areas related to project development (No or Minimal Skills, I’ve Had Some Practice But Haven’t Used It Much, I Use This Skill On A Daily Basis, I’d Be Confident Running Activities, or I Am Creating New Ways Of Working In This Area). 

A greater number of Fellows reported higher-level leadership skills at the end of program than at the start of the program, with fewer Fellows indicating low skills.

The greatest increases in skill building were in the areas of system thinking, ethical reasoning, forecasting and stakeholder engagement. By the end of the program, more than half of the Fellows reported that they were actively creating new ways of working in each of the areas, or that they would be confident running activities focused on them.

Enhanced Leadership Skills

Leadership requires situational awareness about the state of the field and its societal context in order to make wise decisions.  Fellows were asked to rate their knowledge in a number of topic areas related to biotechnology (No Knowledge, Limited Knowledge, I Have A Sense Of This Area, I Know This Area Well, or This Is My Area Of Expertise). 

The number of Fellows reporting that they knew key topic areas in the field well, or had expertise, increased after the Landscaping Workshop. The number of Fellows having no or limited knowledge decreased. The two biggest increases were Fellows’ knowledge of responsible innovation and their knowledge of regulation and oversight.

Expanded Definitions of Leadership

Leadership Goals and Plans

When applying to the LEAP Fellowship, applicants submitted individual ideas related to advancing biotechnology in the public interest that they wanted to develop through the program. During the Fellowship year, the Fellows created Strategic Action Plans to refine (or change altogether), develop and implement their ideas. Fellows were asked to rate their agreement with statements regarding their action plan development (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree).

The revision of ideas and goals, and development of plans are used as indicators that the Fellows were able to integrate program learnings. Fellows reported changes in the goals and execution of their Strategic Action Plans, and their confidence in the plans, over the course of the Fellowship. At the end of the program, the majority of the Fellows reporting said that both the goals and execution of their plans changed. Moreover, most felt confident about their Strategic Action Plan goals and execution. They also said they intended to pursue the activities outlined in their final plans.

One clear indicator of changes in plans is the development of collaborative projects. Whereas each Fellow started with an individual project idea, three group plans emerged from the program—two collaborations of two Fellows and one collaboration of four Fellows. These plans were interdisciplinary, interorganizational and international.