INTOUCH : Young executive honoured

Dr Alison Collins, science team leader in the Crown Research Institute, Landcare Research, has won the Southern Region 2007 NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year.
She leads team of 40 scientists across the country and manages science portfolio worth $8 million per annum. Collins is one of small group responsible for the quality and direction of scientific research and maintaining national core capability in soil and land-use science in New Zealand. Soils and land-use underpin more than $20 billion of primary sector exports and tourism and, as pressures on land use increase, they will assume increasing importance in New Zealand’s bio-economy.
Collins entered the awards as she was keen to see how the complex and challenging role of science leadership stacked up against other ‘leadership’ positions.
“I think, maybe not enough people know what we do in science, the challenges we face and also our successes and achievements when we get things right.”
Her managers say her strategic thinking ability, clarity of thought and communication, along with her tenacity make Collins strong leader.
“I am pragmatist and try to put each and every challenge into perspective – so that minor irritations do not overwhelm the big picture goals.”
Collins says gaining the trust of the team she leads – whose members are both older and more experienced than her – has been one of her biggest challenges and achievements. She has made careful appointments to line management positions reporting to her and built up that team as an effective group which has the respect of the wider Landcare team.
“As scientists and ‘leaders in science’ we have incredibly challenging roles – we are required to not only be technically proficient but also demonstrate the ability to lead people, manage complex relationships between many stakeholders, be excellent communicators, manage revenue and costs, contribute to policy development in government and lead visionary and strategic planning in science – and most of all use our science and thinking to change the hearts and minds of society,” Collins says.
She firmly believes that effective leadership is utterly dependent on building trust and respect in each and every person that you interact with and, for her, that means being good scientist but also understanding, listening to and respecting others.

The overall winner of the Young Executive of the Year award will be announced on the evening of November 29.

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