on October 28th, 2010

Dear Colleagues

‘You see things; and you say Why? But I dream things that never were; and I say Why not? (George Bernard Shaw). I believe that one of the great signs of leadership is in questioning what you do, in identifying new ways of doing things and taking your co-workers or organisation to innovative and new territory.

Leadership is something that all great engineering professionals should work on achieving. Business and life is extraordinarily turbulent at present. And I believe we often get swept along in an organisation because we don't take control of our lives and have some mediocre manager running our lives. As we all know - engineering professionals like working in the technical area and leadership is often not on the agenda. But it should be !

Why should you bother to read further ? Well; leadership is something you should actively consider engaging in more aggressively to benefit your engineering career. No matter whether you are an electrician, technician or engineer.

Download two chapters on leadership at the end of this blog.

There are incredible leaders such as Shackleton of Antarctic fame who recruited his crew with the incredible advert which drew thousands of applicants (‘Men wanted for hazardous expedition. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.’). But leadership is most definitely not something that only a few people have. We all have these skills to some extent – some greater than others. It is about taking ownership and driving yourself further develop your leadership skills with greater enthusiasm and showing a stronger questioning attitude about everything you do.

However at all levels engineers and technicians need to seize ownership - drive innovation and real improvements - thus benefitting customers and increasing profits and improving your day-to-day life and those around you.

There is a definite shortage of good leaders so it is advantageous to work on these skills. Obviously some of the disadvantages of being a leader are perhaps additional stress and the considerably greater responsibility in impacting on other peoples lives.

Engineers need to be influential. At all levels of an organisation, engineers should play a significant role in driving innovations that will benefit customers and increase profits and possibilities for everyone.

What is leadership ?

Leadership is simply the ability to get things done with a group of people. There are three key functions:

* Develop your co-workers (Select the right people/tutor and train ‘em)

* Motivate your co-workers (Understand them and mentor them to achieve)

* Equip your co-workers (direct your co-workers as well as identify and obtain the  necessary resources for them)

As far as the distinction between management and leadership ? Warren Bennis says:

‘Management is getting people to do what needs to be done. Leadership is getting people to want to do what needs to be done. Managers push. Leaders pull. Managers command. Leaders communicate.’

The following are a few reasons why you, as engineering professionals, need to apply your leadership skills:

* Being technical only is not sufficient for your career success.

Technology changes all the time. And how many times have you seen someone who knows nothing about engineering taking a management or leadership position ? However, your engineering know-how coupled with leadership puts you in an incredibly powerful position.

* Leadership is far more than being a manager.

Managers are often appointed. Leading and managing are often different skill sets. They may have been bumped up to a higher level as they have been so long in the organisation. You can show real leadership and technical know-how and be far more successful. * You can guide your less experienced peers. You can provide direction to lower level engineering professionals in your organisation. And influence them in a positive way.

* You can influence the decision makers.

You understand engineering and technology better than most people and can help these high level managers make the right decisions to grow your organisation.

* Great projects only succeed with great engineering leaders.

How many mediocre managers do you know that are in charge of engineering projects ? Help these managers with great leadership.

* You get greater satisfaction (and dare I say, ‘fun and excitement’) in your day-to-day work by being a leader and showing creativity in driving your organisation to success. Surely, you can get greater satisfaction in your career by showing imaginative new ways of taking your firm and career to new heights. Rather than being stuck in the same old way.

Yours in engineering learning


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