Editor's Column Thought Leadership

Leading for the Future

I believe that good leaders are made, not born. Good leaders develop through a continuous process of education, training, experience, and reflection. If you have the desire and determination, you can become a good leader—perhaps even a great one.

Having a broad range of skills—and always being willing to add to those skills—is critical for strong leadership. As technology continues to reshape the world we live in, today’s workplace mirrors those changes. We are seeing more shifts in workplace structures, more globalization, and the convergence of multiple and diverse fields of interest. In addition, today’s workforce has different motivators, expects a differently structured workplace, and has new ways of communicating than previous generations.

To be successful in this ever-changing environment, our leaders need strong communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills; imagination; emotional intelligence; and an entrepreneurial spirit. You must be able to work cooperatively, communicate your findings to others, and be creative in your efforts to solve problems and move technology forward.

And while your position may give you the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in your organization, power or authority does not make you a leader, it simply makes you the boss. Leadership differs in that it is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Strong leaders make those around them want to achieve higher goals, rather than simply bossing people around. As a leader, you should strive to break down barriers and provide the resources, guidance, and encouragement needed to make the team reach its goals. By its very nature, leading people is about successfully interacting with them and empowering them to achieve.

Ours is an interdisciplinary world and requires collaboration that doesn’t confine itself to one discipline at the expense of all others. Therefore, it is not enough to merely know your field of interest. IEEE fields of interest have long been diversifying and intersecting, such as the convergence between fields within the biological and technical worlds inside our Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and several of the IEEE Councils that span multiple fields of interest across IEEE.

In addition, diverse leadership experiences at work, in volunteer organizations, and in professional societies provide the opportunity to practice the skills needed. Experiences in these different leadership venues helps to develop a portfolio of successful techniques that you can draw on later.

Collaboration is not only the cornerstone of technological development but of career advancement as well. An engineer’s ability to work with people from different backgrounds is essential. Technology has no borders. It is not limited to those of one race, gender, or religion and has no political allegiance. As a community of diverse, vibrant professionals, IEEE is committed to advancing technology for the benefit of all humanity and needs strong leaders who can inspire our global membership to work together for a better tomorrow.

Those who can lead initiatives that span functions, sectors, and cultures will be the true game changers. These will be the leaders who will address technology’s toughest challenges while building a rewarding career for themselves. These will be the leaders whom others will follow—and emulate.

About the author

Karen Bartleson

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