Do Engineers Make Good Leaders?


Even though leadership is a trait that can be developed irrespective of the type of the education that a person has, some professions have a greater potential as a leader of the organization. MBAs are one, while Engineers are the other.  This post particularly focuses on engineers, and their capabilities, as a CEO or leader of a business. Read on to find out the truth.

It was back in 2014, that a survey published by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel questioned the ability of an engineering degree to prepare one for succeeding at the top levels of management. American Society for Quality, a reputed organization that administers the prestigious Malcolm Bridge National Quality Award, conducted this survey with surprising results. According to ASQ, only 9 percent of the respondents thought engineers would make good CEOs.

Engineers leadership

Candidates having higher education marketing, finance and sales were considered more suitable and capable of leading the business, as per the survey findings. The results are pretty dismal from an engineer’s point of view, and unprecedented to considering that some of the greatest business leaders in history, right from Google’s Larry PageSundar Pichai & Sergey Brin to Ford’s Henry Ford have been engineers.  However, this survey is surely not the final authority on the leadership ability of engineers. After all, 33% of Standard & Poor’s 500 CEOs in 2014 had their undergraduate degree in engineering. Therefore, it would be utterly erroneous to ignore engineers for leadership roles.

In fact, a closer look would reveal that there is a lot common in engineers and business leaders. Both strive for innovation, efficiency, and creativity in finding solutions to consumer problems. Although their day to day working schedule might be different, even the style might not match a lot, but the knowledge, skills, and aptitude that comes after studying engineering have a lot of application in the boardroom.  Another survey conducted by ASQ, specifically for engineers, shows that 69 percent of engineers feel they have the necessary skills required to lead a company. A career in Engineering is all about analytical thinking and problem solving, and that is the basis of what a CEO does. The logical thinking and organization skills that are taught to engineers while studying all come to help while taking critical decisions for the business. Here are some more reasons why engineers make fantastic business leaders:

Engineers are practical

Engineering teaches us to be pragmatic and practical. You have to constantly think about the real world application of the various theories you learn and this inculcates a pragmatic outlook in the person, which comes to help in various situations as a business leader, whether it is the cost versus performance analysis or the risk associated with the product.

Strong mathematical aptitude

In today’s data-driven world, having a strong numerical aptitude is of prime importance. Businesses have at their disposal huge chunks of data, a rich source of various consumer behaviors and other useful information. Engineers do well in business because they learn to process data well. It is not truly necessary to be a mathematics wizard to succeed in business, but it helps quite a lot. Whether you are visualizing the data, making mathematical models or writing a business plan, having a grip on numbers is a great asset.

Strong computer skills

Being tech savvy is a huge help for the current age CEO. Changing times have made it almost compulsory to be aware of the various technical aspects of doing business. Whether it is mobile computing, cloud computing, big data, CRM, CMS, or simply web, engineers more often than not are more aware of the latest tech trends. With their fingers on the tech pulse, many even having working knowledge of programming, engineers will always have an upper hand when it comes to the tech part of the business.

With the benefit of these transferable skills, there is little doubt over the excellent potential that engineers have for a role in management, or their capability to lead a business.


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