Leadership and management skills for engineers are quite different from your non-technical leadership skills. For one thing, engineering has many different sub-fields. Some are interconnected with each other and most of the time the skills needed are correlated with each other.
Skills necessary for today’s job market
After graduation, engineers have acquired many different skills from their schools, but is that sufficient?
Especially when we know having experience is the more significant part of the picture for the employer, not education or knowledge.
This is why having good or great communication, leadership and management skills is absolutely necessary in today’s job market.
1. Juggling tasks as a manager
Management can be broad as it involves tasks to keep everything organized, on time, and efficient. In becoming a manager one must be competent at organizing, planning, estimating, and communicating, documenting, prioritizing, self-management, disciplined, assessing and mitigating risks.
It also involves interpersonal skills, resolution of conflicts, mentoring and coaching staffs. These are just some of the skills involved in management and it applies to all engineers in this role.
These skills are vital but of course, not everyone can be good or great at all of them. Engineers, especially the engineering managers must be able to communicate and speak in a common and simple language that both clients and engineers alike would understand. It is important for them to have good communication skills in both oral and written, and their manners play a big part here.
2. Communication skills
Becoming a manager doesn’t only involve communication skills, it also includes responsibility for your team’s mistakes.
Engineering managers must be able to correct them and ensure that the error won’t happen again, which also includes making sure that delays and extra budgets allocations are being reported.
Consistency is vital in becoming a successful manager, without it, team members will have a hard time following instructions if there are inconsistencies.
3. Delegation skills
Another skill that is part of being a great manager is the delegation skills, since a manager is handling teams and groups of people, delegating tasks is important.
This involves assessing the staff’s strengths accurately in order to delegate the appropriate tasks.
4. Leadership foundation and accountability are skills
Having a strong foundation for your leadership skills is also important for polishing your management skills.
Engineers who find themselves responsible for leading teams and projects are often involved with managing many tasks and are accountable for many final results and outcomes, as they could be working with many suppliers and customers.
Management focuses on ensuring that the work is done while leadership is more of an interpersonal skill but on a different level.
5. Interpersonal skills
Leadership is about directing people to new places and influencing them to obtain positive results.
Becoming a leader involves being persuasive with integrity, solid interpersonal skills, ability to develop trust and gain respect from others, knowing how to prioritize, being a team player, and building consensus.
Being persuasive is necessary for improving processes continuously, empowering team members, attracting new clients, having good emotional intelligence, encouraging teamwork, helping other proactively, developing new leaders by supporting them and encouraging them to become one.
Leaders must be willing to make sacrifices, being a visionary and strategist, acting on intuition, building strong relationships and always leave a legacy.
Although not all leaders have all these skills, in order to become a successful leader one should work on achieving every characteristic of these skills.
6. Ability to recognize what is needed to execute
Great managers and leaders should fully understand the needed competencies in order to execute projects and objectives and to delegate the necessary responsibilities to those in their team who are fit for the tasks.
As for the team members, they should be open and honest about their level of interests, regarding the opportunities and the said responsibilities.
Leadership and management skills are part of an engineer’s job description so avoiding it is not an option. When managers delegate tasks and responsibilities, the team members are expected to communicate any issues and concerns that may arise on the delegated assignments.
On the other hand, managers must be sensitive to those issues and concerns to make appropriate adjustments. In this part of the process negotiation between a manager and the team members is important. This is part of the leadership competencies.
In some companies leading and managing a team or a project is the most important part of the job and in cases like this, continuous development of one’s leadership and management skills is a high priority.
Along the way leaders and managers must be able to learn and practice newly acquired skills as it can strengthen them in becoming a more successful engineering leader or engineering manager.
Here’s what to do to improve your leadership and management skills
If you’re interested in continuing your engineering career into a management or leadership-oriented role, try the following:
- Take some time to review the skills listed above.
- Choose 5 skills you think you’re not good at including those that you feel you can further develop this year.
- Write down those skills and place them at your workstation or desk so that you can see them every day.
If you are struggling to find out how you should develop a specific skill, consult with your manager, mentor or career coach so that you can have a step by step plan to follow. Good luck!