The 5 Traits That Make Engineers the Best Executives

From Bill Gates to Henry Ford, engineers have developed innovative technology and led companies in a way that has turned them into business legends. The achievements of these innovator/mogul hybrids should go beyond being labeled as good or even great: they developed the infrastructure of the modern world in addition to developing financial empires. Successful Engineers-turned-Executives know products, but they also know the business. What makes these leaders tick?


A LeadingCompany analysis found that the leaders of the Top 50 companies of Australia are as likely to have degrees in engineering as they do in economics, but what is it about engineers that makes them such good leaders?

Researchers from several studies have identified personality traits that are present in high-performing engineers that make them excel as executives. These traits that appear more frequently in engineers have been shown to be determinants of success. Are these traits the reason why engineers go on to become some of the best executives throughout history?

Let’s take a look at the traits and you can decide for yourself:

1. Tough-mindedness: This word means that engineers are realistic, non-sentimental, and not easily swayed. They are determined, focused, and goal-oriented. They will not quit on a project when it gets too hard, nor will they spend time thinking about how complicated the task is. They will just go and do it.

2. Intrinsic Motivation: This means that these people get enjoyment out of the task in and of itself, not necessarily the outcome of the task. This breeds the mentality that engineers love what they do. A thorough understanding of how intrinsic reward drives employment is key to successful management.

3. Analytical: Although this is a broad skill, it explains engineers’ ability to understand technology like nanoparticles and biomaterial in a way that some MBA executives without engineering backgrounds might not be able to. The increasing number of tech companies that deal with highly-complicated technology requires a high-educated person that has a thorough understanding of the tech.

4. Cross-Disciplinary Communicators: Engineers are constantly challenged to think more scientifically than almost anyone at the company on a regular basis, then be able to describe the design to other people. The application of those two skills in tandem requires the mind the combine two processes that other people may not be exposed to: in-depth analysis and in-depth explanation. Engineers have to be able to understand technology, then communicate with other professionals in the company to explain it.

5. Risk Management: In part thanks to their analytical skills, engineers are apt to excel in the area of Risk Management. Risk Management is the ability to forecast and evaluate financial risks together with the identification of procedures to avoid or minimize the risks. This task is definitely as hard as it sounds. Not only are executives required to predict threats to the company, but they are required to choose options that minimize those threats from destroying the business. Engineers use these skills quite often as they need to scrutinize the products they create. A major part of that scrutiny is hypothesizing risks and damage that can be associated with a product. Engineers can apply those same skills to the overall company’s strategy.

For these attributes and more, engineers are poised to be excellent leaders. Engineers go through a difficult route to education that requires a lot of calculus and other advanced mathematics courses. They are also skilled in design, science, and potentially other fields depending on their specific focus within the engineering discipline. Because of the intense preparation and application of those skills, engineers will continue leading today’s companies into the next phase of the Industrial Revolution in tech.