Engineers as leaders?


engineer-wantedI was just reading through the latest View from the Q post and thinking about the various content I had incorporated into Pro QC’s communications during Engineers Week not long ago… The Discover Engineering site is worth mentioning. Even my recent involvement with local education STEM initiatives has played a role in recent observations of this issue of engineers as leaders.

So, do engineers make good leaders? Surprisingly, only 9% of those surveyed as cited by ASQ think so.

I hear (actually see) what the ASQ post is saying, but the data doesn’t connect with me.  I feel like we can’t just clump “engineer” into one category of person that wouldn’t necessarily make a good leader.  Certainly, the extreme version of someone with engineer tendencies wouldn’t fit the bill.  But, couldn’t the same be true of other professions?  If 69% of engineers voted themselves as likely to be good leaders then maybe that’s the more valid data.  Maybe these folks are confident in their analytical and thinking skills, but also feel they can connect with, inspire and motivate others with their personality.  They would almost be like a super human…

Doesn’t the ability of an engineer to lead also depend so heavily on the situation as well?  I would seek out that perfect hybrid of engineer/manager if I wanted to succeed with a team at a technology company.  But, maybe an engineer in charge at the local credit union or restaurant might not be the best idea.  Imagine a distinguished engineer running for President.  If anyone would be capable of staying on top of the country’s problems, it would be an engineer over a lawyer or career politician for sure.  An engineer would have every process broken down and improved for ultimate efficiency in no time.  Money would be bleeding from our pockets all thanks to analytical problem solving skills.

I am fortunate to know a lot of engineers across a wide variety of industries.  I couldn’t say any one of them would make a good or bad leader based on the engineering status alone.  But, the attributes associated certainly do add value to leadership success.

“Engineers create the future.”  ~Ken Jurgensmeyer 




  1. John Hunter  •  Feb 28, 2014 @1:39 am

    I agree, plenty of engineers are about the best leaders you can find. It is true some engineers are a bit lacking in social awareness but so are some of any group that large. More CEO’s have engineering background than any other type of background. (sadly the place publishing that data has not updated it for years)

  2. jenn  •  Feb 28, 2014 @8:21 am

    I’ve seen several articles posted over the past year or so discussing the future of MBAs and business majors in C-Suite positions… It’s certainly a declining trend as also referenced in the data from your link.

    Thanks for sharing!