Engineers as Leaders (part 4 of 5)

L. Eric Culverson –

This discussion series is an excerpt of my book: The Competence Myth – Why your technical skills are no longer enough and what you can do about it (based on Chapter 3: Becoming a Leader)

 The third tenet of effective leadership is Inspiration.

You always have the opportunity to inspire others. Leaders make the most that opportunity.  By being an example of diligence, character, and empathy, you can have a positive impact on those around you.  When you model the best qualities of human nature, you gain both trust and respect. As an emerging leader, it’s important that your fellow team members know they can count on you to be fair, engaged, and always willing to lend assistance.

Now I’m not suggesting that you seek to become a charismatic one-man force within the workplace, cultivate a group of followers, and ultimately leave the country with your followers to establish a remote jungle commune.  The type of inspiration I’m referring to is the natural byproduct of being someone seen as a constant advocate for the wellbeing of the team. You inspire others when you show dedication, passion, and willingness.  Sorry, you simply cannot be passive and inspire others. It takes action.

The fourth tenet is Enthusiasm

There is no substitute for enthusiasm, in any circumstance.  Be it professional or personal, enthusiasm is immediately apparent, and contagious.   You don’t need to be dramatic or over-the-top, but you should be genuinely excited about what you’re doing and the company of those around you.

If this is not true, or if you cannot feel some level of emotional investment in what you’re doing, then you may in the wrong line of work. More likely, you’re just working for the wrong group.  Enthusiasm is demonstrated by an ongoing “can-do” spirit, along with an eagerness to embrace new challenges.  

As a successful leader at your current level, your sense of enthusiasm will have a positive effect on everyone around you.  Attitude is everything, and perspective is closely tied to that.  Your spirit of enthusiasm will help lighten the load for others, and that translates to tangible productivity benefits.

The fifth tenet is Empathy

The ability to appreciate another’s viewpoint to critical to leadership ‒ especially at the local level.  In other words, if you are not the manager or supervisor, then you can still be a leader, but because you’re not the boss, it’s more critical that you learn to build consensus.

Building consensus requires active listening skills.  Do you occasionally find yourself in conversations where you’re listening to the other party, but you almost can’t wait to get your point in? You’re eagerly waiting for that break in the other person’s chatter so you can finally add your valuable input.  That’s not active listening, but it is quite common. 
One the greatest attributes of any leader is the ability to consolidate various opinions and guide the team toward the desired outcome. This sounds easier than it is. Often, our own ego limits our ability to accommodate other opinions, especially if they seem to be adverse. But it’s within the adversity and challenge that great innovations can occur.    

Empathy is critical to your effective leadership.