The Adaptive Engineer

Leadership is more than mastering the technical model

Leadership is more than mastering the technical model

Over many years I have held various operational roles at DuPont and Koch Industries and have interacted with, reported to, and directed work programmes for chemical, mechanical and electrical engineers as well as chemists and physicists – all technical people, who are really good at what they do. But over time, chemical engineers often end up in leadership positions.

To succeed in a senior role they must build upon a sound technical understanding and pragmatic approach to their subject matter, and marry this with an ‘adaptive’ mindset. I have seen trends in leadership and management evolve from autocratic command and control to emotionally intelligent, value-driven empowerment, with people often learning from their own mistakes.

So what do I mean by adaptive? Theories on leadership are two-a-penny and everyone has an opinion. LinkedIn is full of blogs, discussions, forums, groups and apologists for various forms of methodologies. One thing that all are agreed on though is that leadership is about more than mastery of the technical model alone. Professional engineers need to understand this and adapt knowledge, to drive innovation.

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**This article first appeared in The Chemical Engineer, which is published monthly by the Institution of Chemical Engineers