Leadership Qualities for Engineers
There’s no getting away from it, leadership qualities for engineers are key to your professional development.
Naturally, you’re skilled and knowledgeable. You studied hard and you’re starting to build up a good portfolio of project experience. Still, sometimes, you get the feeling that some of the best assignments are given to colleagues who seem to have an elusive quality that you are missing.
Companies need good engineers, but they’re also looking for employees that have what it takes to become team leaders and future managers. Although having what it takes can be very subjective, there are several key leadership qualities that most HR departments are looking for when making recommendations.
Leadership qualities for engineers that are fundamental
If you want to get yourself noticed, there are four main areas you need to address in the way you work with your team and how you interact with clients and colleagues alike.
- Managerial Competence
- Care for others
Within these areas are key skills you need to develop and qualities you can cultivate. The main leadership qualities for engineers are problem-solving skills, confidence, vision, effective communication skills, integrity, honesty, and self-discipline.
1. Problem-Solving Skills, (the most important leadership quality for engineers).
You’re an engineer so this comes with the territory, but it’s important to demonstrate your ability to apply these skills to the problems that arise within the company as a whole, not just in the project work.
If you get to know how the company operates and can spot opportunities for improvements; then you may become the go-to person for help when problems need solutions.
Good managers tend to be decisive; they take ownership of a situation, weigh all the options and select a course of action. Then they track how it is working before changing course, if necessary. Switching strategies too often causes confusion and appears indecisive.
There are a lot of demands on your time. It’s easy to be pulled into trying to do too many things at once. Multi-tasking is often held up as a beneficial skill, but it often leads to mistakes and slows down processes. Break problems and tasks down into logical units and focus on each rather than trying to keep too many plates spinning simultaneously.
4. Delegation and Empowerment
These skills are often considered separate, but they are actually two sides of the same coin. It is vital to get used to allowing other team members to help with the work at hand.
It’s a mistake to feel you are the only one capable of doing a job. Some feel if they aren’t doing it all, they’ll be considered as less than competent.
Organizations thrive by building supportive structures that spread the load evenly, allowing the work volume to increase without creating any points of weakness. As an engineer you know this!
Of course, you need to be comfortable that by delegating, results will be optimal. It’s important to empower your team to work to their best. Make sure that everyone has access to all the relevant information and have the right skills and training support. Helping to develop the skills of those around you pays dividends and demonstrates mastery of this key leadership quality.
5. Self Confidence
You can’t expect people to have confidence in you if you don’t have confidence in yourself. This is not arrogance or bragging. You’ve spent a lot of time in your life and career learning how to do the job.You know you can do it and that your ideas are valuable. It’s just a matter of finding the right opportunities to demonstrate this to others. Needless risks are unnecessary, so analyze the situation, knowing you can rely on yourself and your team to make it work.
True enthusiasm is infectious. If you are genuinely enthusiastic about the company, its products and services, those around you will pick up on this. Don’t try to “fake it till you make it.” Every job is a learning process and your enthusiasm makes it easier for everyone.
If you are enthusiastic, you’ll naturally have a vision for how the organization works, how you fit within it, and areas that may be ripe for improvement or innovation. Share this vision with those around you.
7. Creativity and Innovation
Having a broad vision of the organization as a whole, helps finding creative solutions to problems much easier. As an engineer, you know the more information you have at hand will result in better solutions. The same thing applies to companies.
Innovation goes hand in hand with creativity. New ideas usually have firm foundations in the status quo. Never be afraid to find problems and work on solutions before they become disasters.
This area can seem very ephemeral. Some people seem to have an aura that makes them attractive and exude confidence and authority. They have the ability to inspire others. It may seem that these people are born with this, but in fact, it’s a combination of leadership qualities that can be cultivated.
8. Effective communication skills
Being able to talk to a wide range of people and explain concepts and procedures is something that engineers do on a daily basis. Sometimes, it’s a matter of being able to assess how what you have said has landed. People love to talk about themselves and their views. Communication is a two-way process and you’ll notice that good communicators spend a lot of time asking questions and carefully listening to the answers. It can require some sensitivity but it’s a skill that will pay dividends.
This is not just agreeing with everyone. If you always look for the upside in any situation and find ways to make things work out for the good of everyone, then people are more likely to confide in you. You may find that a potential problem can be avoided because your colleagues feel free to discuss things frankly.
Loyalty to your line manager and the company is important, but it’s also key to show loyalty to your team members and those who work for you. Blaming subordinates or colleagues for things that go wrong can be corrosive, especially if some of the fault lies with you.
You may be very good at your job and have achieved wonderful results but it’s essential to acknowledge everyone who helped you. Great results are rarely performed in isolation, and those around you will be encouraged to support you more if they know their contribution is recognized.
12. Horizontal Networking
It’s tempting to spend time schmoozing the bosses of your company and the higher management of your client companies, but building relationships with all of those around you can be even more useful. Sometimes, ideas and inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, and treating everyone with equal importance can open up some interesting avenues for innovation and support.
Behaving in a supportive and helpful way to those around you is vital. Your reputation is built on the views of the people who know you. Taking the time to say good morning and a few words of small talk makes everyone feel included. Even just a smile and a nod of recognition can help brighten someone’s day.
Operating consistently within a moral and ethical framework builds trust with those around you. They know what to expect and can be confident there’s no hidden agenda when you express opinions.
This one is pretty much engineering 101. Hiding things or making false claims will always come back to bite you. It’s sometimes possible to be too honest when offering advice, but if people understand that your comments come from a place of support and helpfulness, this can smooth ruffled feathers.
It’s always tempting to over-indulge at the office party or perhaps get tetchy with a colleague, but both of these things can really damage your reputation and destroy trust.
Engineering is a very high-demand sector at the moment, and companies are keen to employ the best engineers. They also need a good supply of new leadership candidates. It always makes sense to promote internally, so engineers with strong leadership qualities are “La Crème De La Crème”. By cultivating these leadership qualities, you will get yourself noticed for all the right reasons.
If you want to learn more about leadership, read about the 4 different leadership styles.
If you’d like to get noticed by the right companies, reach out to Step Up Recruiting. We’re very proud of our client roster and may have the perfect fit for you.