Being in charge of an engineering group, a department, or a company takes a lot of planning ahead of time and then continuous improvement as time goes by. I wrote a book titled,Managing People In The HVACR Industrythat was published by BNP Media that could have simply been titledManaging People: An On The Job Experiencebecause the experience and process applies to many who advance into a management role.

In the book, I shared my ideas and experience as one who once was managed by others and then crossed over to being the one managing others. For me, leadership is an integral part of managing people and ever so often, over the past 16 years, I have offered up some of my ideas about leadership in this column so here is another column on training and mentoring in a leadership role.  

Leadership: Part Reality

To manage is to lead and to lead you must set the example. If you expect others to follow, you can’t do this under the principle, “Do as I say and not as I do.” A leader needs to set the pace as it pertains to work ethics, do what it takes to get the job done, and do it as a professional. Every day you can see how not to lead by simply watching the news on TV and see how our politically appointed representatives bend the rules and in some cases, simply lie under oath. As a result, politicians are not the most highly regarded professionals, and as a leader, you need to find others to emulate who demonstrate:  
  • Honesty. Someone told me once that they didn’t necessarily agree with me, but they knew I wasn’t lying to them. I took that as a compliment rather than a complaint.
  • Communication. The only time I close my office door is when I have a couple of people in my office and we are having a conference call. It’s the only time I’m not available to communicate with others outside my office.
  • A positive attitude. You can’t lead if you are complaining. You can complain as long as you finish up with a positive suggestion or direction.
  • Dress for success. If you are a service manager, you should dress as a technician manager and not as a banker. If you are an engineer, you should dress as a professional and not a laborer. If you are a job superintendent, you should dress according to the conditions (e.g., building isn’t enclosed yet for the heating season) but still professionally because you represent your company on the job site. How you look is an indication of how you do your job.
  • Teach to replace. I think the more knowledgeable the people in my group are, the better our product and the better prepared they will be to take my job, or fill that same position somewhere else. Plus, I learn from their feedback on what we do if they are thinking like leaders.
  • Mentoring. The better the personnel, the better the product we delivery. Training, sharing your “good and bad” experience, helping others to set their goals all contribute to having the best team for the job. A leader can’t do it all him self.
  • Time management. This principal is the cornerstone to getting it done well, on time, and on budget. This skill can carry over to your personal life, too, so that life is more than just work.
  • Delegation. Because you can’t do it all yourself, if you achieve the above, giving up portions of the workload and associated responsibilities becomes easy.

Leadership: Part Perception

The antonym for leadership is probably follower. Over the years, I have seen people in responsible charge who better fit the role of a follower rather than a leader because they didn’t apply the skills noted above along with several other management skills needed to lead.

For the individual striving to be a leader, or the person wanting to be a better leader, I advise the person to look around at those in responsible charge and write down what they see as good and bad about the other person’s management skills (also refer to my December 2006 “Tomorrow’s Engineer” column). No one has mastered the role of leader yet, so for those wanting to be a leader and a role model, look around and take notes. There is a saying, “perception is reality,” and a good leader takes on the role of being someone others will follow, in part, through perception.

Of course, you still have to perform and deliver, but perception has its place in the quest to lead. Being good at what you do frequently takes luck, but no one seems to notice the luck that took place when outlining your business plan, project goals, or job performance ahead of time. People simply perceive you always know what you are doing, and that is why you are the leader.  ES