[Vault] So, you're "not the leadership type?" WRONG.

There is no such thing as someone who just doesn’t have the leadership gene.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

For there to be leaders, everyone else has to follow. That’s what society tells us. As a result, we’ve erected an artificial wall in our minds that says “you on that side are in charge; you on the other side, just listen.” More often than not, engineers are placed on the “others” side. Now that’s wrong.

There is no “leadership gene.” Anyone, especially engineers, can be a leader, start a business, influence others, and ultimately change the world. Different people may exercise different types of leadership, but leadership is inside of everyone.

The first step in bringing out this quality is simply a change in perspective. So, let’s start off by defining some important terms. There are three major steps for engaging in the market of ideas: listening, communicating, and leading. All of them are key, and somewhat misunderstood.


The simple definition of listening is “understanding someone else’s ideas.”

I think Stephen Covey said it best in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” But no one will make a major difference in the world if they can’t help others understand, that is, of course, unless you plan to live forever. That’s why we need communication.


Communication is helping others understand your ideas.

The myth here is that communication is about talking. It’s not. Communication is about understanding. Understanding is very important, but it’s not the whole deal. Understanding without action means nothing. That’s why leadership is so important.


That one word is important, yet so mystical. Most people only think they understand this word. In fact, I didn’t really until this past week. Then it hit me. I want to share this “revelation” with you.

Definition: Leadership is getting others to turn understanding into action.

This is why leadership is especially for engineers. It’s natural science that primarily focuses on understand. Don’t get me wrong, that’s also important. Leadership without understanding leads to disaster. Understanding without leadership is worth nothing. Engineers are being trained to make these ideas work in the real world. In a word, to lead.

One of the best ways I heard it put was when our own Dr. Yale Patt said that “Natural Science is about understanding what is. Engineering is about creating what has never been.” I thought it was very interesting to hear the same kind of sentiments echoed by political and media leader Henry Kissinger: “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”

When Albert Einstein lobbied for the rights of his people during WW II, he is generally considered a leader. But most people don’t realize that when he published one of the greatest breakthroughs in science, he was also being a leader. Something as simple as relativity was leadership because he created a whole new science through his work. He turned his ideas into action in others.

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That’s why everyone is a leader in some respect. If you’re going to find the cheaper way to make a computer and bring that to the market, that’s leadership. If you’re going to find the cure for cancer, and save millions of lives, that’s leadership. If you’re maybe just going to design a bridge for construction workers to create or find an alternative to oil, it all means being a leader. If you want to be an entrepreneur and start up your own engineering firm, you are the leaders of tomorrow.

The reason you have to be a leader is because you can’t do it all yourself. If you want to make the world a better place, the question isn’t are you going to lead; the question is where. In what area will you take the lead and change the world?

What starts here changes the world

This is an article I wrote for my college’s engineering newsletter, Vector. It won “best non-themed article” and was featured in the October issue. It was based on an exhortation I had previously written for the Austin Rhetoric Club Officers. I hope this motivates you to grasp the cause God wants you to lead. (that’s why I say it’s “from the vault”)

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