Leadership in Engineering

Engineering projects are typically quite complex and usually involve multiple people and stakeholders to deliver a project. A wide range of disciplines and technical specialities are required to deliver projects fit for purpose, achieve the desired results, and ensure a satisfactory level of reliability. For decades it was accepted that project management was a key skill or competency needed to deliver projects successfully, but in recent years, the importance of leadership has been highlighted.

Developing leadership skills is an important way for engineering professionals to add value to the projects they work on; what’s more, leadership skills can position engineers for career advancement, allowing them to assume supervisory roles and increased decision-making authority.

The foundational leadership skills needed include the following:

  • Communication. Leaders need to know how to set a vision and convey expectations to their team, customers, and other stakeholders. This includes communication during the various phases to deliver a project from scoping the project, conceptual designs, detail designs, documentation development, contracts to construction and the collaborative process that drives the development.
  • Decision-making. After seeking feedback from customers and team members, leaders must ultimately feel confident in making informed decisions and conveying them to those who report to them and the customer and other parties. The decision-making process is equally crucial through a consensus-driven process or command and control where all decision making is centralised. The steps towards decision making from the process to the rules and different authority levels need to be structured and communicated.
  • Teamwork. Leaders must foster cohesive team environments, both by example and through effective processes used to deliver projects. The team management structure is essential, and the management of different processes and ownership of activities and tasks must be clearly demarcated and communicated.

In summary the team leader must act as the project manager but also the leader

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