Leadership Is Communication, Rising Engineers Told

December 15, 2016
A group of ASCE members participated in the recent Emerging Leaders Alliance conference.
A group of ASCE members participated in the recent Emerging Leaders Alliance conference.

Civil engineers need to hone their abilities to read people and communicate – the so-called soft skills, says Brent Darnell, Aff.M.ASCE, president and owner of Atlanta-based Brent Darnell International.

“These skills are no longer just nice to have. They’re must-haves. The industry is going toward more collaboration – integrated project delivery. So young engineers really need these skills,” Darnell said. “Technically speaking, these kids are brilliant. They’re much smarter than I ever tried to be – that’s just how they grew up. I think this [emotional intelligence] is the missing piece for a lot of them.”

Darnell shared his observations as a session presenter at the recent Emerging Leaders Alliance conference, organized by ELA’s nine partner societies to provide leadership development to a select group of engineers – including several ASCE members – from across disciplines.

Mark Koegel, P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE, is at the point in his career arc where he taking on more leadership roles, having started a new job as a assistant project manager for Kleinfelder in Raleigh, NC.

Part of Darnell’s approach to developing emotional intelligence is to start with self-analysis. The emerging leaders at the conference took different tests and surveys in each session to determine certain characteristics about themselves. This training emphasizes that no type is better or worse, only that knowing yourself is necessary for success.

“All of us, we’re going through it together,” Koegel said. “We’re all ambitious. But the way people showed leadership or interacted with others was very different. There were both extroverts and introverts.”

Koegel tested out as an analytical type. “I need more information to make a decision,” he said. “So it takes me longer to make the decision. Others just trust their gut and need to learn to get more information first.”

Diana Hasegan, P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE, is ahead of the curve in her career. A project manager for Osborn Consulting and the 2017 Seattle Section President-Elect, she is among the youngest Section officers in ASCE. She took the ELA conference’s leadership development message to heart.

“If you want to be a good leader, you need to treat others how they like to be treated, rather than how you like to be treated,” Hasegan said. “I don’t know if there is an exact prescription for everyone, but it’s just important to be more aware of people – understanding that each person is coming from a unique perspective.”

Learn more about the Emerging Leaders Alliance and how you can represent ASCE at the 2017 conference.

1 Comment
  • David E Booth, Jr., P.E.

    Many years ago, when I was still a teen, My grandfather, J. D. Booth, who was a Westinghouse Engineer, said to me, “E. Howard Armstrong was a brilliant designer, but he was not a good engineer because he could not communicate. I don’t care how good an engineer you are, if you cannot explain your design in such a way that a lay person and management can understand it, you will never be more than merely mediocre.”

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