Operationalizing interpersonal behaviours of leadership for early-career engineers

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This qualitative research employs interview techniques to understand behavioural evidence of early-career engineering leadership. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine engineering leaders from three large international engineering companies. Analysis of the interview data through constant comparative open and axial coding methods suggest that traditional notions of interpersonal competencies, such as extroversion and charisma, often may not reflect practicing engineers' preferences toward leadership. Instead, this research reveals four behavioural themes of interpersonal behaviours related to engineering leadership: Technical forthrightness, positivity through sociotechnical constraints, builds interdisciplinary alliances, adaptive communication. Further, we view our results through Bartram's Great Eight competency framework, which outlines general competencies for leadership across settings. By mapping our interpersonal behavioural themes of engineering leadership onto the Great Eight competencies, we operationalize leadership behaviours manifest in engineering. We propose that by teaching engineering students-future engineering professionals-the interpersonal behaviours for successful engineering leadership, we encourage a reflective and person-centred approach to teaching the more general leadership competencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-732
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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