Leadership for Innovation




Thorough scientific knowledge, experience, and expertise are cornerstones for generating new insights and manage research groups and programmes. However, the capacity to successfully lead research groups towards innovation is quite a different challenge. As head of a research group or as chair of an institute, complex social phenomena are directly influencing the potential for innovation, be it in a favorable or be it in a dysfunctional way.

In scientific practice, leadership is less a question of abstract principles or virtues, however, it is much more a question of

  • how to develop robust and reliable work relations,
  • how to foster curiosity, openness, and intrinsic motivation,
  • how to deal with typical scientific (extrinsic) reward structures,
  • how to balance collaboration and competition, research and career perspectives,
  • how to decide on the framing of tasks and projects, how to balance autonomy of and guidance for scholars, etc.

The course is meant to provide insights on leadership and innovation from the perspective of the social sciences. Structural, cultural, as well as behavior-related factors will be addressed. An optional follow-up session will provide opportunities to reflect on experiences made when applying learnings from the seminar.

Target group

The course is open only for ETH Professors, Assistant Professors and Senior Scientists.

  • Leadership and/or management? A difference that makes a difference!
  • Leadership in scientific practice. The specific context
  • Social dynamics of innovation
  • Leadership and (de-) motivation
  • Balancing collaboration and competition
  • Conflicts, dilemmata, and paradoxies in leading for innovation
  • Areas of influence and the creation of a ‘milieu’ for innovation


  • No specific requirements apart from curiosity and eagerness to engage in reflective discussions.
  • Preparedness to invest in a preparatory that triggers reflection concrete experiences.


  • The one-day session will be composed of various conceptual overviews provided by the convenors including both analytical and interventional considerations.
  • About half of the time will be spent to reflect on cases participants might want to provide.
  • The optional follow-up-session (about 4-6 months after the course) will provide the opportunity to discuss experiences in applying the concepts and strategies acquired during the course.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Clases, AOC Consulting. Christoph Clases studied psychology, philosophy and linguistics at the University of Hamburg, and received his doctoral degree at the Free Univ. of Berlin. He lectured and conducted research at the TU Hamburg-Harburg, the Univ. of Kiel, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Univ. of Zurich, as well as at the Univ. of St. Gallen.

Martin Ghisletti, Head Personnel and Organizational Development ETH Zürich.
Martin studied economics at Universtity of St. Gallen and did an executive Master in Leadership at INSEAD. Martin has 15 yrs experience in leading teams from his roles in ETH, Hewlett Packard and AXA.

Information on course content

Martin Ghisletti

Information on course registration


external pageProf. Dr. Christoph Clases  

Martin Ghisletti

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