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Author: Tom Davis | PE
12 Tips for Understanding and Transforming Good Managers into Effective Leaders

I have always found the discussion of leadership to be interesting. Over my career (I’m on the downhill side) I have worked for, and with, many different types of leaders. What makes a leader effective? And what, exactly, is leadership? There is a distinct difference between Management and Leadership. As a Consulting Engineer, I have had the opportunity to manage projects, clients, processes, and people (employees). The success of a project relies on good management. The success of a team – or company – relies on good leadership.

Let’s explore what makes effective leadership.

"Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Over the years, I seem to have gravitated to several leadership positions – within the community, at my church, at the office, and within professional organizations. Those positions were not necessarily something that I aspired to attain. What I aspired to be was an effective manager.

So, what is leadership? I am going to illustrate what leadership is by also showing what leadership is not. I had the privilege of attending several workshops conducted by the late Mel Hensey. Mel started a management consulting firm near Cincinnati, in 1974. Mel founded the ASCE Engineering Management Division, the ASCE Journal of Management in Engineering, and the American Society of Engineering Management.

In his book, Personal Success Strategies, Developing Your Potential, Mel compiled the following mistaken beliefs, which were discovered by several notable authors who have written on this subject (see references below).

1. You don’t have to be in a position of authority to demonstrate leadership. A leader can lead without authority and get things done.

2. Every organization does not need a leader. However, leaders are needed in all parts and all levels of organizations.

3. Leadership is not ordering others to do something. Leadership is inviting someone to do something that needs to be done.

4. Leaders have clear goals and expectations. But they are also very interested in the goals of the other individuals, and in the power of group wisdom.

5. Difficult and dirty work isn’t usually sought out by most folks. However, leaders are often able to turn these aspects of such situations into motivating challenges.

6. Leaders can’t solve every problem. However, they can break problems apart and help focus others on the parts.
1. You don’t have to be in a position of authority to demonstrate leadership. A leader can lead without authority and get things done.

2. Every organization does not need a leader. However, leaders are needed in all parts and all levels of organizations.

3. Leadership is not ordering others to do something. Leadership is inviting someone to do something that needs to be done.

4. Leaders have clear goals and expectations. But they are also very interested in the goals of the other individuals, and in the power of group wisdom.

5. Difficult and dirty work isn’t usually sought out by most folks. However, leaders are often able to turn these aspects of such situations into motivating challenges.

6. Leaders can’t solve every problem. However, they can break problems apart and help focus others on the parts.
This keeps employees aligned with their interest and keeps them engaged, leading to employee satisfaction and employee retention. We all certainly know how time-consuming it is to find and hire the right people for your organization.

Peggy Morrison, the author of Making Managers of Engineers, made the following suggestions for professionals who aspire to formal leadership roles:

  • Take a broader view of your organization, including the needs and priorities of other parts of it.
  • Value openness and honesty and learn to use them with tact and gracefulness.
  • Polish your skills of listening, negotiating, managing conflict, and communicating clearly.
  • Learn the group skills of planning and team development, and the individual skills of delegation and follow-up. As we like to say at Chastain-Skillman, “Delegate to elevate.”
“Contrary to the opinion of many people, leaders are not born. Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work.” - Vince Lombardi

At Chastain-Skillman, we understand the importance of developing the next generation of leaders. As Vince Lombardi said, “leaders are not born.” They are intentionally developed through effort and training. Our inaugural class of future leaders will be going through our Leadership Development program this year. The program spans several months and will help the “students” develop their leadership skills, which will benefit them now and when they assume formal leadership roles within our company. They are excited about the opportunity, and Chastain-Skillman is thrilled to be able to help develop their unique leadership skill set.


References

  • Karl Albrecht, Personal Power, 1986
  • Judith Bardwick, In Praise of Good Business, 1998
  • William Cohen, Art of the Leader, 1991
  • Aubrey Daniels, Bringing Out the Best in People, 1994
  • Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership, 1977
  • Peggy Morrison, Making Managers of Engineers, 1986


Tom Davis is the Director of Civil Engineering at Chastain-Skillman, LLC based out of our Nashville office, Tom has 40 years of experience in civil and environmental design engineering. Tom oversees all civil engineering functions within our firm and has extensive experience providing management oversight and civil engineering design for various multi-phase developments. Tom also has a breadth of knowledge in projects containing regulatory and permitting processes, particularly water quality permitting for a range of infrastructure developments involving environmental design.

Before joining the CS team, Tom served as Vice President/Area Manager in previous roles and was a key leader in managing large, multi-disciplined projects throughout the United States. In 2019, Tom received the Engineer of the Year award for the State of Tennessee, by the Tennessee Chapter of National Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE), the highest award offered by the organization.



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