6 Practical Ways to Gain Leadership Skills as a Mechanical Engineer


The path to success in engineering often extends beyond technical expertise. Leadership and soft skills are also part of the career journey. Many mechanical engineers want to become leaders in their field and take on leadership roles.

In this blog, we’ll dive into six practical ways you can develop leadership skills now as a mechanical engineer and use them effectively when you apply to leadership positions in the future.

But first, let’s talk about what leadership in engineering is.

What Does Leadership Look Like in Engineering?

Leadership in engineering is like most leadership roles in other fields. Good leaders foster a collaborative environment, encourage creativity and innovation, and lead by example. They inspire and guide their team to success toward common goals and objectives.

As an engineering leader, your role directly influences the company’s success. Companies are 22% more profitable if they have employee engagement initiatives, according to Zippia.

You’ll be more involved in high-level business discussions and become the representative for your team in leadership meetings.

Leadership styles and soft skills also influence your team’s efforts, effectiveness, and retention rate.

According to Zippia, about 70% of employees report they’ll work harder if their leadership team recognizes their efforts, and nearly 80% of employees report they would quit their jobs if they felt unappreciated.

Yet, being an engineering leader can be incredibly rewarding. Despite high statistics on how employees feel about their leadership, you can change that as the next leader by taking more empathic and authentic approaches to your leadership style. Eighty percent of employees report they are happy with their boss and work.

Let’s discuss how you can start gaining leadership skills in your current role, so you’re ready when the time comes to apply for leadership positions.

READ MORE: Launching and Advancing Your Engineering Career

An engineering leader is problem-solving with a teammate.

1. Develop Your Technical Knowledge

To be an effective leader in mechanical engineering, you need to have a deep understanding of the technical aspects of the field. Technical aspects include knowledge of mechanical design, materials science, thermodynamics, and other core concepts.

Stay up to date with new technologies and trends in the industry. Strong technical knowledge will help you communicate effectively with your team members and make informed decisions.

2. Practice Effective Communication & Good Listening Skills

Good communication abilities are in-demand skills for any leader. In mechanical engineering, you often work with others on complex projects with many moving parts.

As a leader, you need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with your team members, clients, and other stakeholders.

In addition, you’ll want to practice being a good listener and be open to feedback and suggestions from others. Good leaders listen to their teams and adjust their plans based on their team’s perspective.

3. Learn to Collaborate & Delegate Tasks

Collaboration can be similar to communication, but this skill is more geared toward how well you work with others.

Mechanical engineering projects often involve multiple teams working together, so it is essential to be able to collaborate effectively. Collaboration means working with people with different backgrounds and skill sets and being able to manage conflicts and resolve disputes.

As an engineering leader, you will need to learn how to delegate tasks effectively and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

4. Build Upon Your Problem-Solving Skills

Mechanical engineering is a field that requires a lot of problem-solving. As a leader, you need to help your team solve problems effectively.

You’ll need to identify the root causes of problems, gather and analyze data, and develop effective solutions. Start practicing high-level thinking about the problems you encounter in your current role.

You should also be able to anticipate potential problems and take proactive measures to prevent them from occurring. Start thinking a few steps ahead for each action you take: what happens if you do it one way vs. another? Are there roadblocks you foresee? Are there major issues your action can cause?

5. Be a Role Model

Your team looks to you for support and guidance. Good leaders focus on what their teams need ahead of time and spend time understanding their pain points while establishing a good working environment. So, be ethical, honest, and transparent in your actions and decisions.

In addition, good leaders are willing to admit their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions. By being a role model, you can inspire your team members to be their best selves and work towards achieving their goals.

6. Seek Out Mentorship

Some people are natural leaders, but others are not. If you’re one of those people who aren’t natural leaders, it’s okay. You can seek out mentorship to help you develop your leadership skills.

Your mentor can be someone in your organization or someone you trust outside of your company. Some people find mentors on LinkedIn, but you’ll have to leverage your networking skills if you connect with them for the first time.

A mentor can provide guidance and advice and help you identify areas for improvement.

READ MORE: How to Make a Professional Development Plan in a Few Easy Steps

The Final Note

Developing leadership skills in mechanical engineering can help you grow in your career. Career advancement is a journey, so take your time. As a mechanical engineer today, you can practice and gain experience every day, so when you see leadership roles available, you can speak to those experiences and what you learned.

It’s also a plus if your team cheers you on when you’re promoted to leadership positions. Since you’ve already gained your teammates’ trust, they can be confident you’ll support and guide them to success.

Make the most out of your experience!

Matt May
About the Author

SolidProfessor Director of Sales and golf addict.