Engineer and Chief Executive Officer

24% of the best 100 performinslider-2g CEO’s have an engineering degree. I enjoyed reading the November Harvard Business Review article on the 100 best CEO’s in the world. The survey measured the tangibles of shareholder return and market capitalisation; an engineer would approve I suspect. Seven of the top 25 had engineering degrees and yes the most successful CEO in the survey is an engineer.

Clearly they all took the steps to broaden out from one of the world’s most important disciplines. A discipline that translates science and ideas into effective products, environments, services and help the rest of us benefit from the rare resources all around us.

Success comes from capitalising on instincts, intuition and problem solving skills an engineering background provides. More than this it enables an attitude towards improvement, building and decision making.

It is interesting to me that these top CEO’s don’t just manage engineering companies but according to HBR a wide range from health care, retail, consumers services and financial companies. A broadened outlook provides new contexts and dimensions in which to deploy core capability. This builds insights, enables new possibilities and opens the frontiers for both how they contribute and their own personal development. The embodiment of personal change predominantly in attitude and outlook means we see these people in a different way; different to the stereo typical view of engineer. We see the CEO. For those whose ambition lay elsewhere the principle is the same.

I think there is a message for all engineers here whether deep specialists or systems thinkers whether or not there is ambition to be the CEO. Embracing breadth whilst being authentic to one’s core capability extends the potential of that capability and the value to those around them. I imagine it reinforces that sense of contribution; a vital ingredient in job satisfaction and work that makes a difference.

So what does the engineer bring to business? HBR pointed to “pragmatism”, “building things that work” that are “efficient”, “reliable” and smart. They “trade cost and performance” to achieve optimisation. Above all engineers are “problem solvers” and “architects.”

It doesn’t take too much imagination to picture those skills being deployed in designing, building and executing a successful business.

When I reflect on this I wonder whether engineers are the people to help us build a sustainable economic future through business leadership. Shouldn’t we be encouraging more people to study this discipline extending what we understand by engineer and engineering to make it more attractive as a discipline?

If you are an engineer looking to spread your wings why not come and talk to us and see if we can help you.

Contact us here.

“The Best Performing CEO’s in the World & Leaders for the Long Term” by Adi Ignatius – Harvard Business Review, November 2014.