Foundations of Leadership: Core Concepts for Building Your Leadership Style

August 2023 - June 2024

This premier leadership development program is designed for early career PhDs. In this program participants will explore the inherent and environmental aspects of their behaviors to gain a holistic understanding of their priorities, preferences, and motivations. Through this understanding they will not only enhance their self-awareness, but also will gain insight into the priorities, preferences, and motivations of others. Certificates will be awarded to participants who complete all program requirements

What Makes the Program Unique?

  1. It is grounded in the belief that there is no single right way to lead and no prescription to being a good leader. There are, however, choices to be made each and every day that either do or do not align with who you want to be as a leader, and we educate you about frameworks and concepts to help you analyze those choices.
  2. We utilize multiple personal assessments throughout the program, but not to explain to you who you are destined to be. The assessments are not meant to create limits in your thinking, but give you freedom to choose the behaviors you want to display and what you want to change by providing you with an understanding of your inherent priorities and preferences.
  3. The cohort model creates an instant network of like-minded individuals with whom you will work closely throughout the program. This has also founded an alumni community for the program.

Program Outline

    Understanding Yourself and Others

  • Module 1: Who is a Leader? Understanding Your Unique Value - Part 1
  • Module 2: Who is a Leader? Understanding Your Unique Value - Part 2
  • Module 3: Who is a Leader? Understanding Your Unique Value – Part 3
  • Module 4: Who is a Leader? Understanding the Unique Value of Others
  • Understanding Relationships and Interacting with Others

  • Module 5: Understanding Conflict - Part 1
  • Module 6:Understanding Conflict - Part 2
  • Module 7: Communication as a Tool for Addressing Conflict
  • Module 8: Communication as a Tool for Strengthening Relationships
  • Developing as a Leader

  • Module 9: Influence as a Tool for Advancing Goals
  • Module 10: Influence as a Tool for Building Support
  • Module 11: Program Finale


The 2023-2024 program cohort will include 25 postdoctoral scholars and advanced graduate students. Participants will:

  1. Virtually attend classroom-style modules the *third Friday of each month (4 hours each via Zoom, starting at 9:00 am PT/12:00pm ET).
  2. Engage in discussions and assigned projects in between modules.
  3. Work in groups to develop a program project for presentation at the finale.

See Program Timeline for more information.
*The last module will be held the first friday of the month.

What participants say about the program …

2022-2023 Testimonials

  • A fantastic program that opened my eyes to human behavior and taught me how to successfully navigate a role which needs to balance different priorities and communication styles.
  • Learning about the unique ways that different people think about and act in a professional setting has exceptional value in helping you become more capable and productive in team settings.
  • Attending the program has made me self-aware of many of my leadership characteristics and potential. I have gained access to a part of my personality which I was previously unaware of. I feel empowered and more assured in my own leadership abilities thanks to not only the various tools and resources made available to us, but also the language used to describe imperceptible and hidden leadership style features.
  • I would highly recommend this program for any person looking to grow personally and professionally for any future leadership position. The knowledge gained through this course is highly applicable and sought after.
  • Participating in the 2022-2023 cohort of the SBP Foundations in Leadership Program was one of the best decisions I've made as a postdoc fellow. The program is critical for improved self-awareness about your style, preferences, and priorities as a leader, and it also allows [postdoc] fellows to develop the ability to better understand others.

2021-2022 Testimonials

  • I would highly recommend this course with the advice that learning (good) leadership skills requires substantial and sometimes difficult introspection. This course provides a large set of tools which through the provided exercises, reflection and feedback allow creation of a custom toolbox useful in efficient management of the self and the team.
  • Leadership is a journey, but as any skill it needs to be practiced extensively. I'm glad I had opportunity to join the Foundations of Leadership Program virtually (otherwise it wouldn't be possible as I'm based in Europe). I gained a lot of confidence and important insights about myself and others (the team), specifically how to negotiate, resolve conflict, how to be a team player and a team leader. Thank you for empowering future generations of scientific leaders!
  • This program helped me find the language to understand other people. It helped me see conflicts and negotiations in a different light, and this ultimately simplified how to navigate interpersonal relationships.
  • This program helped me identify my own strengths and recognized that the weaknesses I perceived in myself can be useful strengths as well.
  • Get to know the true leader in you! The Foundations of Leadership Program has opened my eyes in the diversity on leading styles and conflict resolutions. I have no doubts that attending this program, on top of being fun, is a great asset to move forward in my independent career!

Representation from different institutions and different countries

Since 2020, the Foundations of Leadership Program has been held virtually to expand its reach and encourage early career PhDs from around the world to participate. Thus far, the program has incliuded:

  • 116 program participants from
    • 34 unique institutions
    • 9 U.S.states
    • 3 countries

Program Faculty

Program Director
Diane Klotz, PhD
Director, Sanford Burnham Prebys' Office of Education, Training, & International Services

Dr. Diane Klotz is Director of the Office of Education, Training, & International Services, and Associate Dean of Administration and Professional Development in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, CA. In this position Diane oversees a team responsible for creating and delivering innovative programs to support the professional growth and complement the scientific education and training of Sanford Burnham Prebys graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. She also participates in institute-wide efforts in strategic planning with respect to education and training initiatives, and serves as an advisor to faculty on education and training best practices and to executive leadership on education and training policy. Most recently, Diane was selected to lead a new Sanford Burnham Prebys initiative to develop a leadership competencies model and new leadership development program for all employees.

Diane received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Tulane University, and pursued her postdoctoral research training at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS, NIH). Diane’s research focused on cross-talk between steroid hormone receptor and growth factor signaling pathways in the female reproductive tract. Outside the lab, Diane served as a member and chair of the NIEHS postdoctoral association and was a member and chair of the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) Board of Directors, where she remains active as chair of the NPA Advisory Council. Diane has served on the NIH study sections for the NIH Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) Award program and served as a member of the NIH BEST External Scientific Panel of advisors.

Diane’s career path has been shaped by her observations of and experiences with how scientific organizations function and how scientific leaders strive to effect change and make progress. Her focus in the education and training of scientists at all levels and in all career paths is on helping scientists find their voices as high impact leaders who are able to guide their teams with compassion, clarity, vision, and intent. Toward this end, Diane worked with academic labs, professional associations, and biotech companies towards developing high-performing teams and cultures that support them. Diane is a certified DiSC® facilitator, Influence Style Indicator™ facilitator, Leadership Process: Motivating Achievement facilitator, and MBTI® practitioner, and has achieved comprehensive certification in Conflict Management and Change Management from Kilmann Diagnostics, along with a certificate for Negotiation and Leadership from the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

Program Manager
Nisha Cavanaugh, PhD
Associate Director, Career Development & Postdoctoral Programs

Dr. Nisha Cavanaugh is the Associate Director of Career Development & Postdoctoral Programs within Sanford Burnham Prebys' OETIS. In this role, Nisha oversees the portfolio of career and professional development programming for Sanford Burnham Prebys postdoctoral scholars and the co-curricular activities for graduate students. Additionally, she collaborates with OETIS faculty and with the Sanford Burnham Prebys Science Network to design new professional development workshops, programs and opportunities to enhance the postdoctoral experience. Nisha is a certified Influence Style Indicator™ facilitator and MBTI® practitioner, and she has completed certification in Conflict Management from Kilmann Diagnostics and the Gallup Successful Strengths Coaching course.

Nisha received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder where she elucidated the primase-polymerase enzyme mechanism in Herpes Simplex Virus-1 DNA replication initiation. As a postdoc at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), she analyzed the structure-function relationship of DNA polymerase beta and the misincorporation of ribonucleotides during DNA repair. Nisha is passionate about creating and developing innovative programs for early career PhDs that complement the education and research training they receive to provide them with the necessary tools to successfully achieve their research and career goals. This desire stems from her own graduate education and postdoctoral training experience as well as her time spent as Chair of the NIEHS Trainees Assembly, the NIEHS postdoctoral association.

Heather Dillon, MSc
Career and Professional Development Program Manager
UC-San Diego

Heather Dillon is the Career and Professional Development Program Manager in the Office of Postdoctoral and Research Scholar Affairs at the University of California, San Diego. In this position, Heather develops, coordinates, and presents programs to meet the training and professional development needs of the UCSD postdoctoral community. Heather serves as an ex-officio member and advisor to the UC San Diego Postdoctoral Association Board and collaborates with partners across UC San Diego to facilitate high-impact career development programs for PhDs and Postdocs.

Heather graduated with Highest Honors from the University of California, Davis with a degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and has a Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from Dartmouth College. She is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and MBTI® Certified Practitioner. With over a decade of experience in recruitment and advising, Heather has assisted hundreds of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with their job searches and application materials. She is devoted to helping trainees succeed in their chosen professions by providing career guidance and advice through seminars, workshops, and individual meetings.

Program Facilitators

B. Bea Rajsombath, MBA
Director, Pre & Postdoctoral Office,
Salk Institute for Biological Studies

B. Bea Rajsombath, Director of Graduate & Postdoctoral Services, oversees the Pre & Postdoctoral Office (PDO) at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She has been employed at the Salk since 2010 and has successfully served in various instrumental roles during her tenure. She earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Carlson School of Management with an emphasis on strategic management and international business. As part of Salk’s PDO, B. Bea and her team assist trainees in identifying funding, deliver career development programs, develop strategies and tools to aid postdocs in finding independent positions. B. Bea serves on a number of committees, including those focused on diversity initiatives for Salk. She is also a certified MBTI® Practitioner and CIMER facilitator for mentor training.

You can contact us at!


You MUST be a:

  • Postdoc (Postdoctoral Scholar, Postdoctoral Associate, Postdoctoral Fellow, or similar title) at any eligible institution
  • Sanford Burnham Prebys Graduate Student (MUST have passed their qualifying exam and be admitted to candidacy)

The program's cohort of peer emerging leaders will be committed to fully engage in all program activities and support their fellow participants.

Application Process:

To apply to the program, complete the application form in full, including:

  • General Demographic & Contact Information
  • Copy of CV (as a PDF file)
  • Statement (as a PDF file) that includes answers to to the following 3 questions. Your statement will be evaluated based on how your responses align with the goals of the program. In general, submitted Statements with well-thought-out responses tend to be 1-2 pages long:
    1. What is your motivation for participating in the Foundations in Leadership Program?
    2. What do you hope to gain from the Foundations in Leadership Program that will help you be successful immediately and in the future?
    3. This leadership development program will be held virtually. Describe what you’ve done in past virtual events to demonstrate to the speaker and other attendees that you were fully engaged.
  • Acknowledgement that you will participate in the program fully (attendance will be required for every module and completion of all assignments and projects)
  • Requirements: Access to reliable internet and Zoom platform, functioning camera and microphone
  • Program cost ($285) covers assessments and all program materials (to be paid in full only if you are accepted into program). The actual value of this program is $1,170 per person. To make the program accessible to as many early career PhDs as possible, we endeavor to keep the cost as low as we can. The program fee is to cover only those costs that Sanford Burnham Prebys is unable to absorb. We can work directly with your institutional career development office to receive payment on your behalf should you decide to use available professional development funds.
    • *If you would like to be considered for a scholarship - based on financial need – that will offset part of the Foundations of Leadership Program cost, then contact prior to submitting your application.
The 2023-2024 program application deadline has passed. If you are interested in learning more about the program for next year’s application cycle, contact us at

Deadlines & Important Dates:

  • Tuesday, July 11, 2023 at 11:59 pm PT: Deadline to Apply
  • Monday, July 24, 2023: Participants notified if accepted into program
  • Monday, July 31, 2023: Deadline for participants to pay program fee
  • Friday, August 18, 2023: Foundations in Leadership Program begins
  • Friday, June 7, 2024: Foundations in leadership Program Ends