Working across the engineering sector, I find it’s common for engineers-turned-leaders to confess that this is something they’re not always too hot at. In their hearts, in their heads and in practice they remain technical problem-solvers and innovators, and aren’t nearly visible enough as leaders.
This is a big mistake.
Here’s why increasing visibility most be a central element for any engineer in a leadership role.
1. People need to follow someone
…and if their leader isn’t visible, they’ll choose someone else to follow instead.
Yes, the notion of ‘followership’ is rather unpopular but the fact is leaders need followers and followers need leaders.
Followers look to their leaders to give direction, inspire their thinking, influence their behaviour and empower their performance.
If their formal leader isn’t visible, followers will seek to fill the vacuum with someone else – and that someone may or may not lead in a direction that aligns with the business.
2. It will build people’s trust in you
If you want people to commit to following you, they must first trust you. And they won’t trust you if they don’t see you.
On the other hand, getting out and about, engaging with people on a day-to-day basis and understanding what life looks like from their perspective will build the deep trust that leaders need from those they lead.
You don’t need to do anything fancy – in fact, the more you simply spend time with people in their place of work the quicker trust will build.
3. It will make crisis leadership easier
From time to time, your strength as a leader will be tested because you will have to lead in a crisis.
This will require visibility as you maintain direction, steer your team (or organisation) through the storm and establish normality again afterwards.
The thing is, if you are normally an ‘invisible’ leader, you’ll find it far harder to become visible when the crisis hits. And you won’t have the relationship with your people to ensure they stick with you.
Ultimately, your day-to-day visibility establishes your right to lead others when crisis strikes, and builds your confidence to be a visible leader during these tough times too.
Visibility is central to success as a leader and task-focussed, problem-solving engineers must make sure they are seen as leaders by the people they lead.
Actively focusing on building visibility as a leader will:
- Give your people someone to follow
- Build people’s trust in you
- Make crises leadership easier
To find out more about how to increase your visibility as a leader, check out this post.