People that inspire me: Cilia Witteman

Professor Dr. Cilia Witteman was my supervisor on my master thesis for my master of behavioral science. She is an extra ordinary woman who seems to achieve academic success within ease I have not known before. Let me tell you a little bit about her first. I’m not sure if about the chronological order but it doesn’t really matter.

About Cilia

Cilia studied fashion design, and if I’m right, she went to Paris for some time to do that. She started out really well and she became arty in the arty business. After some time, she decided she wanted to go back to university. But In order to finance her university degrees she worked as an English teacher. While she was working as an English teacher, she studied Philosophy and she made a Doctor in Philosophy. Then she was teaching artificial intelligence. While teaching artificial intelligence, she got into decision making, and especially clinical decision making. She got a habilitation for looking into diagnostic decision making. Now, she’s the head of the diagnostic decision making group at the Radboud University which is part of the clinical psychology department. It’s a small group, I think about 10 people, and it’s a very specific topic. There are only few people studying this in the whole Europe.

What’s really nice about this is there is an international community which she can over see. She is in top her niche that she picked, and I think that this was a great pick. She is one of the foremost scientists in her field. She gave out a new book, “Tracing Intuition” together with Andreas Glöckner from Germany, and I think this book will be a huge success in setting the tone in the field of decision making in general, or clinical decision making / diagnostic decision making in specific.

Cilia’s ability of leadership

But what is so special about Cilia? Well, what inspires me about her is her ability of leadership. She is an extraordinary woman who has achieved a very high ranking position in a very short amount of time, all by her own power. She has a fantastic leadership skill that’s empowering  and motivating people. It’s just fantastic and I don’t know how she does it. She doesn’t get angry or frustrated, or at least she doesn’t show it. She’s always nice. She’s looking for a solution wherein if something goes wrong, there is no personal blame, and there’s an objective analysis of the situation and a careful planning of the steps. Furthermore, she will give her co-workers so much of the credit if something works out right.

Empowering research group

By empowering all those people, she has set a wonderful tone for this research group. It is a pleasure to come and work there. You have your own responsibilities for your own project. She’s not so much the head of the research group and making decisions but more on a sort of advisory position. She will share all the glory and funding with her co-workers.

Speaking from my own experience, this is enormously motivating. You are given responsibility for research, you can plan your own money, and you can plan your own funding. It’s just so much more fun to work on your own project if you can live out your own creativity and thoughts. Furthermore, in every meeting, your voice is heard and you are taken seriously, even though you’re just a student. You’re a full member of the team, and I think this is what’s really special about her; her ability to connect to people and to foster in people what she sees as great abilities. I think she does that by focusing on long term goals. Sometimes, I’m just amazed by her ability to just stay calm and address the problems step by step.

Role model

I would like to be a leader like she is. She incorporates to me the new approach to leadership to motivating people, making people feel comfortable and in control, and setting positive goals. On top of that, she is a very dedicated person. She will be there in the morning and she will leave late in the afternoon. She will work on the train. Also, I think I have never waited longer than 24 hours to get a reply to my email. If it’s important, you can call her. She’s there for questions. If there is a conflict she will be the most helpful adviser on how to deal best with the situation. And she will not be afraid to give you access to her network and use her connections for everyone to benefit. I’m not sure what she sees as return investments and actually how she calculates it – but if that would be possible I think her way of leadership would be very effective.

Thanks for everything – You taught me well.

Leave a Reply