How good engineers become great business leaders

More than 30% of Fortune 500 CEO’s have a degree in engineering. So, how do good engineers become great C-suite business executives? What I have found is that their secret is to simply focus on strengths. Because if you do the opposite and spend your life trying to compensate your weaknesses, you will only end up with a large set of strong weaknesses. Let me explain.

Engineers have three massive strengths which can help them to stand apart from others in leading a business like a tall giraffe surrounded by tiny field mice.

There are experts at building processes and systems. This is an essential skill for successful business executives, because the only way to get future-proof and predictable results is through a process or a system. For example, if you want to grow your company, you need to realize that if you do not have a process for selling, you are at the mercy of someone else’s process for buying.

They are experts at reality based thinking. As profound management thinker Peter Drucker once noticed, ‘What’s the reality?’ might be the most important question in business. Hope is not a strategy. Engineers are pragmatists, trained to keep on testing until the feedback from reality gives satisfactory results.

They are experts at accelerated learning techniques. You will not succeed in engineering if you have not learned how to learn. Engineering is more about learning how to pragmatically solve complex problems, and less about returning information in the same order it was given to you. The good news is that every business skill is learnable, and engineers are adept at figuring out ‘the method to the madness.’ This explains why we see engineers often excel in other professional fields like marketing, finance and patent law, yet we rarely see non-engineering professionals working in the field of engineering.

But what about the typical lack of soft skills and ‘EQ’ which allegedly hold engineers back from becoming effective business leaders? This is a myth. Engineers are not ‘damaged’ and don’t need fixing. Business skills are not innate and the best business leaders have simply learned the basics of any (soft) business skill to advance their career.

An engineering degree is a great stepping stone for a broad and successful business career. The best recipe for any engineer to dramatically advance their career is to focus on strengths:

– Start building even better processes and systems in all fields of business
– Help others to engage in reality based thinking and testing, especially outside the field of engineering
– Use your excellent learning ability to simply absorb and apply the basic (soft) business skills necessary to raise your career bar even further.


Benarf Abobo
March 23, 2021 at 2:41 pm

Nice one. Control Engineer

Paolo Pavone
September 9, 2021 at 3:35 pm

Paul, thanks for this interesting article.
Probably it sound a little hard for whom is not engineer 🙂

P.S. I hope it will read also by C-level and recruiters 🙂

Paolo Pavone
September 9, 2021 at 3:49 pm

Paul, thanks for this interesting article.
Probably it sounds a little hard for whom is not engineer ?

P.S. I hope it will be read also by C-level and recruiters ?

Benard Abobo
November 22, 2021 at 12:22 pm

A true article. Love it. Engineers are problem solvers. Great business oriented people.

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