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Society of Women Engineers

The Surprising Truth behind Engineering Leadership

At Brown University’s Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership program, our research suggests that technical professionals, in fields such as engineering, lack the crucial skills to help them succeed as leaders. Read on to find out how to transcend your area of expertise and broaden your perspective to become a highly prized effective leader.

Published On: November 2017

According to a recent HBR report, ‘Women are underrepresented in the C-suite, receive lower salaries, and are less likely to receive a critical first promotion to manager than men.”  But, once you make it up that ladder, based on hard work and your engineering excellence, did you ever think you might not be as prepared to lead as you’d like?

At Brown University’s Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership program, our research suggests that people in the early years of their career have strong technical skills, which gets them up the first rung of the ladder. But when they once again look to move up a level, they’re faced with the realization that they lack the crucial skills to help them succeed as leaders.

We conducted a series of in-depth interviews with more than 30 senior leaders in top technology companies to identify the key skills and capabilities technical personnel need to progress in order to become effective leaders. Not surprisingly, we learned that engineering professionals are proficient technical and analytical thinkers who drive to the root causes of problems and dive deeply into details in a structured, systematic and disciplined way.

In their early careers, these traditional strengths serve them well, but they often stumble when asked to lead bigger teams and achieve success through the efforts of others. There are too many cases of brilliant technical professionals floundering once outside their functional areas.

Top Skills

Our research with senior executives identified four critical skills that technical professionals must strengthen to become high impact leaders:

  1. Big picture thinking
  2. People skills
  3. Flexible and integrative leadership
  4. Effective communication

Getting Results

Corporations have a pressing need for transformative leaders who drive innovation in today’s complex, rapidly evolving global markets. To become one of these highly prized leaders, technical professionals must transcend their silos and broaden their perspectives.

To learn more about the value of this leadership skillset and how to cultivate it, please read the full article here.  We also encourage you to explore the Brown University Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership program to find out how this rigorous 16 month online and in-person program prepares technical professionals to acquire the breadth of skills to lead teams.

Read The Surprising Truth behind Engineering Leadership in its entirety, here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming SWE podcast and TweetChat with program director Sandra Smith for a lively discussion about the conclusions of her research on the challenges of engineering leadership.  

This promotional content was contributed by Brown University’s Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership program.

Sponsored by:
Brown – Executive Master