What are traits?
This question may seem obvious as everyone is familiar with personality traits. You know them as the qualities that make you – you. But, in addition, there are shared or common characteristics and unique ones that comprise your personality. They influence how we think and behave. Psychology Today opines that there are the Big Five Traits or OCEAN that are studied most often in psychology:
- Openness: Receptiveness to new ideas; curiosity
- Conscientiousness: Control impulses and act productively, and responsibility
- Extroversion: Sociability and assertiveness
- Agreeableness: Positivity and compassion for other people
- Neuroticism: Disposed towards anxiety and depression
An American pioneer in personality theory was Gordon Allport (1897-1967). The 20th-century psychologist studied psychoanalysis and behaviorism during his tenure at Harvard University. Dr. Allport created a list of 4,504 traits.
Importance of traits
The above information may seem superfluous; however, traits are integral to being an effective manager. Not only are your characteristics vital to being a respected leader, but they should also be the source for becoming a manager. Beyond experience and technical skills, those choosing someone for a management role evaluate your ability to direct others. Cynically, some believe it’s who you know, not what you know. And concededly, some promotions are decided this way – regrettably.
Putting aside the possibility of favoritism, you need to have certain traits to be recognized as leadership material. One could spend years reading about management from Greek philosophers to the more recent ones, like Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard, Peter Drucker, Amy Edmondson, and Martin Goldsmith. Most have become best-selling authors and highly sought-after speakers.
People bring their personality to the role of manager, which can impress their superiors but not endear them to their subordinates. For example, an egotistical manager may be admired by their boss but is a source of annoyance for those managed. An effective manager should put their ambitions aside and encourage supervised individuals to work as a team.
It is amazing how much people get done if they do not worry about who gets the credit.
A degree in engineering management will provide the skills to enter a leadership position; however, managers attain this level by advancement more often than not. Aspiring leaders need to demonstrate characteristics like integrity, flexibility, confidence, diligence, and effective communication. These traits, when noticed, along with technical knowledge, might result in a promotion to management. Typically, those who excel in their job become manager candidates. For example, top sales producers might become sales managers. Unfortunately, this selection process does not always create the best leader if the person lacks the people skills and leadership qualities. Some of the best supports for this premise are in sports – the most successful coaches were frequently not the best players. For example, Bill Belichek, head coach of the New England Patriots, never played in the NFL. However, he was captain of the Wesleyan University lacrosse team in his senior year.
Looking at job postings on online sites as Indeed or LinkedIn for engineering management, you’ll see a list of qualifications for each. In addition, many stipulate what engineering specialties, such as mechanical, electrical, computers, or software, are preferable—few designate engineering management, which suggests that employers emphasize technical knowledge and skills over management theory. However, experience in management is paramount for positions of leadership in the engineering field.
The following traits (soft skills) are from current employment openings:
- Highly motivated and hard-working
- Excellent communication and presentation skills
- Ability to lead and mentor others
- Organized and meticulous
- Drives decisions and escalate critical issues
- Empower your team
- Build and maintain relationships with clients and vendors
- Ability to work under pressure and deadlines
Managing in a closed environment, like a manufacturing facility or office, is different than sales personnel. The latter do not have daily interaction with the boss. Whereas, as an engineering manager, you will generally have to interact every day with team members and other staff. Each day will test your leadership skills as you discuss, plan, delegate, supervise, train, mentor, and advise those you manage.
Your technical skills may land you in a leadership role – but your personality traits will influence how effective you are in this position. Therefore, as your academics progress, it’s advisable to take public speaking, do volunteer work, learn from management gurus (Stephen Covey, for example), participate in team sports and activities, or take online leadership courses (Udemy or Open Learn).