What skills do young engineers need to grow into leadership roles? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
First, let's all remember that leadership comes in many forms. To me, leadership is an ability, not a specific position or a role. So, I can confidently speak to what it takes to grow your leadership abilities. There are some basic tenants of leadership that determine for me whether or not a leader is good or bad.
Collaboration - Any good leader knows that "no man is an island." Trying to accomplish major tasks on your own only shows your inability to recognize the need for diversity of thought and alternative perspective. Finding a way to constructively collaborate with others and exhibit your ability to work cross functionally is paramount to leading a team, division, or an entire organization.
Follow Through - Great leaders are the ones that are always able to march down a path that, even with road bumps, gets an objective to the goal. Everyday I make a decision about a tradeoff in order to meet a project goal. I decide on whether or not my team would be let down or the product would suffer if I didn't accomplish a part of the goal. But, I'm always "moving forward."
Impact - Top leaders have honed their ability to drive impact. They recognize that there are lots of paths or objectives that on the surface look equally important, but can "see the forest for the trees" and distinguish among them to determine how to drive impact for their project or organization. Some of the ways this ability manifests itself are: doing work that enables other team members to succeed or identifying a problem area and determining a viable solution or mentoring less experienced engineers and knowledge sharing.
Compassion - Amazing leaders exemplify compassion and recognize that no two experiences are the same. They can navigate the complexities of differences in a team's personalities, backgrounds, experiences, communication styles, confidence, initiative, etc., to bring some humanity into the work that is necessary to accomplish the organization's goals.
In tech, we put lots of emphasis on "thought leadership," which is a specific type of leadership companies (especially smaller companies) hope to find in every hire. Thought leadership affords you the ability to sway other people and innovate with fewer barriers. It's extremely valuable to be seen as a thought leader in tech and that's what I personally strive for in each role and opportunity I take on. I find that the job title and compensation tend to come along with that, but optimizing for a job title isn't ever my goal.
While there are plenty of leadership roles that one can apply for at every organization, building your leadership abilities and putting them into practice is much more valuable than any job title you'll ever pursue.
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