What Are The Most Important Leadership Skills That Encourage Innovation In Engineering?

Technology has become ever more important to our lives and a central part of society. This can be seen in our personal lives, where the latest smart tech powers our homes and tech in entertainment keeps us amused. Of course, technology is also a crucial part of our working lives now and has made its presence felt across pretty much all sectors.

Engineering is good example and a sector which has been impacted greatly by developing tech over time. If you enjoy working with the latest software plus get a kick from solving problems, designing products and testing out structures/systems, then this could be the career path for you.

Leadership in engineering is essential

Although all people within engineering are an important part of the whole sector, those who occupy higher-level leadership positions are especially key. This is because good leaders in engineering inspire their staff and help them fulfill their true potential. 

In addition, the best leaders are able to help the firm they work for grow, have a knack for effective strategic decision making and are also adept at ensuring projects come in on time/on budget. As with any position of this kind across the business world, engineering leaders also set an example for staff to follow in terms of conduct and play a huge role in bringing work into their company. 

How do you become an engineering leader? 

If the above has give you the impetus to move into an executive level role in engineering, you may well be keen to find out how to do it. As with other high-level roles in business, the most essential thing is to have the right qualifications. 

The Online Master's in Engineering Management from uOttawa is a good example of the kind of program to consider studying. Aimed at engineering professionals who want to move into management roles, it covers everything you need to know in order to do so. It is key to be aware that courses like this will usually ask for a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a comparable major subject to apply for. 

As well as getting the qualifications to become a leader in this sector, you may also want to consider building up the necessary work experience first. It is not wise to gain your bachelor’s degree in engineering for example and then be looking at moving into management after 6 months in your first job! 

It is better to get at least a few years practical experience in the sector first before targeting the step up to leadership positions. This ensures you are able to handle what these roles bring and have the experience needed to do well in them. 

Innovation in engineering: Leaders play a pivotal role 

We have already looked at why leadership in engineering is so important and the impact good leaders can have on staff. People in these roles also becomes crucial when you consider how they encourage innovation in the industry. Without managers to inspire and motivate, then the engineering sector would not have scaled the heights it has over the years.

Just as there are some top RPG games to enjoy, there are also some top leadership skills engineering managers can use when looking to foster innovation. But what are the most vital skills engineering leaders can possess to achieve this? 

IT skills 

We have already noted the crucial role technology plays within society and also within engineering. When talking about the top leadership skills for greater innovation in this field therefore, outstanding IT skills are high on the list.

Being familiar with the specific engineering IT platforms, systems and packages in a leadership role ensures you can use them to come up with new ides of your own. In addition, it allows you to use the latest tech to view ideas staff might have come up with or understand exactly how they might work. When it comes to more standard examples of IT in the workplace, packages like MS PowerPoint enable you to present fresh thinking to senior management. 

Excellent inter-personal skills 

With all the technology, computers and mathematics in modern engineering, softer skills can often be overlooked. This can be dangerous because softer skills are a valuable part of any managers toolkit. 

Good inter-personal skills for example are a must and help engineers in leadership jobs connect with their staff. This is naturally handy for building a closer bond with them, creating a good working atmosphere and being seen as a leader who is approachable. Excellent inter-personal abilities are also one of the top leadership skills for driving innovation in business

This is because they enable managers to interact with staff effectively to explain new ideas individually or brainstorm fresh thinking with the whole team. Good inter-personal skills also create a stronger team who are more willing to engage with innovative new practices leaders implement. It also motivates employees to get involved with requests from leaders for new innovations.   

Communication skills also key 

While this may sound the same as inter-personal skills, there is enough of a difference to discuss it in more detail. While inter-personal skills do naturally rely on communicating effectively with employees, this is usually focused on actual interactions with people. 

Communication on its own however can also relate to being able to pass on information via a range of other methods, such as email or text. This makes high-level communication a leadership skill which is central to driving innovation in engineering. 

But why is it so useful? Being able to pass on information in a clear, concise and appropriate manner helps leaders get their message across to staff. When it comes to encouraging innovation, this can ensure staff are aware of the need for new ideas, what areas they are needed in and what problems any new innovations are needed to fix. 

In addition, communicating the need for fresh thinking in the right way can inspire staff to get involved. Good skills in this area are also helpful for digging deeper into any ideas staff come back with and giving feedback on them. 

Creative thinking a must 

Any engineering leader must possess high-end creative thinking skills if they are to encourage new developments in the sector. This is important for two major reasons which touch on both their personal and wider contribution to the process. 

To begin with, engineering leaders need to show creative thinking in order to come up with new ideas or tweaks to systems/services themselves. The best leaders do not always rely on others for out of the box thinking and are adept at bringing their own ideas to the table. This not only keeps you fully involved in the process but shows others you have the capacity for creative thinking. 

In addition, leaders in this industry also need to show good creative thinking skills to motivate their team. Employees may soon get demoralized or struggle to come up with new innovations if the people who lead them do the same. 

Critical thinking skills

To pioneer innovation within engineering, leaders in the sector must also be able to think critically. This goes hand in hand with creative thinking and is important to develop. But why is this the case? 

Critical thinking skills ensure that any new ideas you or your team come up with are viable. Creative thinking is great for dreaming up new innovations but you need critical thinking to ensure they actually work. 

Being able to think logically about a new system update or new product line means you do not rush into anything and do not make any expensive mistakes. It also allows you to fully understand the costs, processes and risks of any new innovations before they are rolled out.  

Problem solving 

Creative thinking is great for brainstorming new ideas and critical thinking is superb for checking they will actually work. On top of this, problem solving skills are an engineering leadership skill which can really push levels of innovation. 

This skill comes into its own when you have checked out a new idea which could really work but have hit a few issues with it. If these are fairly minor problems, it seems a shame to dismiss the overall idea itself. It is much better to try to improve on the original thinking and this is where problem solving comes into play. 

As a leader, this might not actually be solving the problem yourself but giving staff a few pointers on which areas to explore. If team members are really stuck on an idea you think could work, then you can still offer your own thoughts on how best to make it work. 

Stay humble 

One trait which leaders in engineering can use to encourage new thinking is humility. It is key to avoid acting like a know it all when staff come to you with fresh ideas. This will be a major turn-off and actually discourage them from doing so again. 

Being humble also means you stay open to exciting new ways of doing things or tweaks to products you have not thought of yourself before. All this is superb for driving up levels of innovation in your company and also engineering as a whole. 

Ethical and fair leadership vital 

Showing a strong ethical approach to leadership is essential in any industry. This is true in engineering and fair, morally sound management skills are a must. As you can imagine, this is valuable for building trust with colleagues, senior management and clients. It also means you operate in a fair way when managing teams and do not have any favorites. 

Ethical and fair leadership skills also come into play for driving the latest exciting developments in the industry. To begin with, giving credit to the people who actually came up with a strong idea is not only the right thing to do but will encourage more people to do the same moving ahead. 

Do not make the mistake of claiming all the credit for a new innovation for yourself if it’s not warranted. This will annoy people who know the truth and lead to less engagement with out of the box thinking moving ahead.

Ethical, fair leadership is also key for innovation as it ensures all team members are given a fair chance to engage in the process. This helps to not only encourage more people to do so but also generates more new ideas moving forward.

Creating a culture of innovation also crucial 

While the above skills leaders can show are vital for driving engineering forward, the general culture they create in a team or engineering firm also plays a major role. Even if a leader has all of the above traits which can foster the best innovations, it will count for nothing if the workplace culture does not support this. 

It is therefore essential that leadership figures in the sector create a culture where new ideas are valued and staff have time to think creatively in their role. This may be time set aside each week for staff to meet and throw around ways in which systems, products or processes could be improved. It may also include leadership figures regularly asking staff for any fresh thoughts and taking the time to discuss them. 

Examples like this show how creating the right workplace culture can really help encourage forward thinking around engineering. While it is key to strike the right balance between actual work and a culture which makes time for new ideas, it is something which can have a real impact. 

Top leadership skills for engineering innovations 

As the above shows, there are some key leadership skills which those at higher levels in engineering can use to foster innovation. If you plan to step into managerial type roles in the sector moving forward, it is key to hone these skills. Doing so will not only make it more likely you will succeed in an engineering leaders’ job but also help the company you work for push the whole industry forward.  

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