The skills that make engineers and scientists successful in a technical role are not the same as those required by leadership positions. To be effective leaders, technical experts must expand their skillset to manage time efficiently, communicate clearly, and overcome conflict.
This article is based on the AIChE-Wiley book Leadership by Engineers and Scientists: Professional Skills Needed to Succeed in a Changing World
Engineers and scientists often ascend to leadership and management positions after establishing a track record of success in a technical role. Despite technical competency and good intentions, feelings of frustration and anxiety may confront these individuals as they adapt to the new job. They generally find that the traits and mindsets that led to success in the past are no longer as relevant to their present leadership role, where soft skills may take precedence over engineering know-how.
Technical experts are trained in fundamental principles and methods to solve complex technical problems where simple and exact answers are not always available. While this is challenging, engineers in leadership positions are faced with even more complexity. They must oversee the solving of the same issues while also considering the intersection of technical and personnel problems (i.e., sociotechnical problems).
This article addresses the transition engineers and scientists must undergo to achieve success in technical leadership and management roles. To be effective leaders, technical experts must first look to expand their skillset to manage time and efforts under stressful conditions, communicate clearly, and handle conflict...
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