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How to lead better as an engineer

vital-qualities-of-great-leader.jpg Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

We all want to develop leadership skills. It is crucial in today’s world to develop strategic thinking and leadership qualities whether we are holding a leadership position or not. As an engineer, my day-to-day job involves a lot of these qualities. Being a better leader can make me a better engineer.

I started learning from the most successful leaders in the industry from books and courses. The latest course I took was from Master Class where I learned leadership and challenges faced in strategic thinking by Bob Iger. Bob Iger has been leading Disney as the CEO from 2005 to 2020 and as a Chairman till now, so he’s got a deep well of wisdom from which to draw. He can recognize a good leader almost instantly, but more importantly, he knows how to continually develop as a good leader himself. These are the 8 criteria that, to Bob Iger, define healthy leadership:

1- BE AUTHENTIC

“When I talk about authenticity in leadership, what I mean is being honest, being straightforward, being genuine, being real - never faking anything, never saying anything… that isn’t rooted in the truth.” Authenticity involves the synthesis of the above two tenets: candor and optimism. You have to balance both. This extends to knowing your own limits: If you lack experience in a particular realm, own up to it (candor) and hire someone with more expertise who will ultimately guide you and your company or brand toward success (optimism).

2- OPERATE WITH INTEGRITY

“It’s vital that anyone in business operates with a high degree of integrity.” If you’re anything like Bob, you want to be the kind of leader who is defined by his or her high standards and unimpeachable character. This means you don’t cut corners, you don’t burn bridges or backstab, and you find creative, ethical ways to deal with challenging situations.

3- FOSTER CURIOSITY

“Being curious is vital to being successful.” Bob defines curiosity as having a desire to learn new things, have new experiences, visit new places, and meet new people. It’s a concept that taps back into his advice from Chapter 8: Anticipating What Consumers Want about the value of experiential research. Curiosity and exploration inspire innovation. Curiosity is not something that just happens. It’s a skill you have to cultivate. Dedicate some time to exploring: Go to a museum, go on a hike, take a class, get sucked into a Wikipedia vortex. Allow yourself to experience wonder.

4-BE DECISIVE

“Second-guessing decisions is not something that I like doing.” First, a disclaimer: As a bold leader, you must make every decision carefully and non-impulsively (remember Bob’s lesson about taking calculated risks in Chapter 9: The Importance of Risk-Taking). However, you want to avoid dragging your team into the weeds of indecision. Do work behind the scenes to become the kind of person who can make decisions efficiently and definitively, and once you make a decision, stick to it. Even if the decision you’ve made is turning out to be the wrong one, don’t agonize over what could have been. Accept the consequences, embrace failure as an opportunity for growth, and move on.

5- BE FAIR AND OWN YOUR MISTAKES

“Give people an opportunity to state their case…to give you a sense of who they are.” Be present to the people who work for you, and show them that you have a vested interest in them: Find out who they are, and bring an attitude of empathy with you when you engage in criticism. When someone who works for you makes a mistake, learn to see when it can be turned into an opportunity for growth. Provide second chances when appropriate. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Force ghost Yoda says, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” Keep that in mind. When you fail, use that moment as an opportunity to establish a culture of resilience and optimism. This means taking responsibility for your actions. As tough as it is, making mistakes and subsequently owning up to them can, in turn, make you a stronger and more respected leader.

6-PRACTICE CANDOR

“Creating a safe environment for honesty and candor and ease of communication is extremely valuable.” You should be clear in your expectations and evaluations of others, Bob says, but then you should also expect them to be candid with you. This includes a tolerance for hearing criticism, which can be tough. But it’s also essential. As a leader, you need to encourage your employees to be honest with you and accept responsibility for your failures.

7- PROJECT OPTIMISM

“A leader can be a realist, but it’s incredibly important to infuse some level of optimism into just about everything.” If your company is in hot water, own up to it. Then, when projecting your expectations for the future, learn to frame the tough situation as a learning experience and chart a course forward that guarantees growth. This kind of strategizing has to be genuine. Your employees will know if you’re doing this for the sake of trying to maintain positivity - so you have to have a realistic strategy for bouncing back. Your optimism must be rooted in the achievable.

8- PURSUE PERFECTION

“The relentless pursuit of perfection often means never accepting mediocrity.” As a leader, the success of your employees and ultimately your company is dependent on your commitment to yourself, your team, and your brand: At the end of the day, you get out what you put in.


If you want to learn more, watch Bob’s Leadership course on MasterClass

Originally published on Medium.