Great engineering leaders share the same attributes
Here are eight attributes that, in combination, create greatness. These are not the only attributes of a great leader, but these are at the top of the list.
Engineering leadership is a tough job. Even the most outstanding leaders admit it took them years to get good at it, and there’s no such thing as a perfect leader. Great engineering leaders and managers share the same attributes and behaviors. Leadership is a competency, not a role, so it’s difficult, if not impossible, to isolate a single quality, mindset, behavior, or attribute that signifies greatness. While great leaders tend to embody many qualities, all working in concert, here are eight points that, in combination, create distinction. These are not the only attributes of a great leader, but these are at the top of the list.
Empathy and compassion are critical attributes of great leaders. It’s an essential part of emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ). Overall, an empathetic leader interacts with others in a way that leaves them feeling safe and cared for, as though they have a trust-based connection. The key is your empathy must be genuine and authentic.
The importance of integrity should be obvious. Though it may not necessarily be a metric in employee evaluations, integrity is an essential leadership trait for the individual and the organization. It’s crucial for leaders who chart the organization’s course and make countless other significant decisions. Our research shows that integrity may be a potential blind spot for organizations.
Effective leadership and effective communication are intertwined. The best leaders are skilled communicators who can communicate in various ways, from transmitting information to inspiring others to coaching direct reports. Listening is a critical component of communicating with your team.
While this is a more inwardly focused trait, self-awareness and humility are paramount for leadership. The better you understand yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, the more effective you can be as a leader. Do you know how others view you or how you show up at work? Take the time to learn about the four aspects of self-awareness and how you can strengthen each component.
Being thankful can lead to higher self-esteem, reduced depression and anxiety, and better sleep. Gratitude can even make you a better leader. Yet few people regularly say “thank you” in work settings, even though most say they’d be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss. The best leaders know how to demonstrate sincere gratitude in the workplace.
It can be hard to speak up at work, whether you want to voice a new idea, coach a direct report, or flag a concern for someone above you. That’s part of why courage is a crucial trait of good leaders. Rather than avoiding problems or allowing conflicts to fester, courage enables leaders to step up and move things in the right direction. A workplace with high levels of psychological safety and a strong coaching culture will further support truth and courage.
Treating people with respect daily is one of the most important things a leader can do. It will ease tensions and conflict, create trust, and improve effectiveness. Care is about more than the absence of disrespect, and it can be shown in many different ways. Explore how you can cultivate a climate of respect at work or learn how to become an ally to others.
Exceptional engineering leaders can differentiate between realistic and unrealistic ideas. They’re good decision-makers who can take critical steps and quick decisions during crises. But more importantly, they expect the same from their teams and are willing to teach them. Great leaders share their knowledge and skills and are always looking for opportunities to elevate others on behalf of the group.
What type of leader do you want to be?
Think back to the best boss you ever had. What was that person like? What attributes about their leadership did you admire? They may forget what you said, but never forget how you made them feel.
"Let's continue to lead with purpose, passion, and positivity and inspire those around us to do the same."
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