“Why are we working so hard? Does any of this really matter in the end anyway?” I said this phrase constantly throughout my engineering career. I recall working hard, flying to different countries, and being stressed out to ensure that garage door openers were designed and manufactured for maximum profitability.

There had to be more to life.

Photo Courtesy of Dunechaser

Photo Courtesy of Dunechaser

When I made the switch to InterVarsity/USA, I brought the same tenacity and work ethic into a very different world! After all, people are worth more that garage door openers, right? I was inspired to use my gifts and education for God’s Kingdom. This experience has transformed me from developing products to developing people. I became a leader.

I believe you can become a better leader by applying these 7 lessons I learned while being an engineer:

Lesson #1. Gather Data Frequently

I’ve heard it said that what gets measured is what gets attention. As a leader you should set a culture of collecting and measuring data. This discipline is needed and beneficial. Don’t merely collect data, but give the measurements meaning. Reflect on your progress and make adjustments.

How do you gather data? Are you measuring the right things about your organization?

Lesson #2. Never Assume Anything

I realize that people and relationships are not precise (like circuits, haha) but that does not give you license to make assumptions. Leaders should gain clarity in all things. Make that extra phone call. Send that confirmation email. Ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page. Almost every screw-up starts with someone assuming something.

Do you have clarity on reality? Is everyone on the same page?

Lesson #3. Design for Overload

Most consumer products are designed to handle 110-125% of the expected load. This prevents fire hazards, electrical shock, and/or injury to persons. It is responsible design. You should do the same when creating new programs, assigning new work to staff, and/or casting new vision. Leaders consider the maximum strain when planning.

Have you planned everything to sustain the strain? What/who needs support?

Photo Courtesy of Betina Daniel (c)

Photo Courtesy of Betina Daniel (c)

Lesson #4. Seek Out Optimal Solutions

In the engineering world, every problem must have a solution. It may cost money, time, or quality, but eventually it can be solved. Leaders know how to deliver solutions that are cheap, fast, and/or good, but not all three. Many leaders want all three, but that rarely happens. You should explore your options. Count the cost. Execute the optimal solution.

Are you bringing resolution to pending issues? Are you counting the cost for an optimal solution?

Lesson #5. Never Miss Deadlines

Deadlines and schedules are important. There should be a sense of urgency in your work and progress. Never let money drive your deadlines, just because something is profitable does not make it priority. Leaders know the difference. Leaders set attainable deadlines and keep people accountable for the right reasons.

Are you careless when it comes to deadlines? Are you losing progress due to low accountability?

Lesson #6. Work Hard, Excellence Follows

Hard work leads to proficiency, which leads to excellence. Don’t cut corners as you strive to make progress – it will only come back to bite you later. Instead consider what it would look like to over-deliver on your promises. Show people that you care by taking an extra step. Leaders always go for excellence!

Are you cultivating an environment of hard work and excellence?

Lesson #7. Stay Geeky and In The Know

Geeks, Nerds, Engineers are all about understanding and sharing the next cutting-edge technology or breakthrough (insert snort). There is an insatiable hunger to discover new ideas and teach others. This posture of learning is necessary to be a great leader. Leaders research, discover, learn, apply, and teach others. Be a learner, practitioner, and teacher! Be passionate… keep it geeky!

Are you keeping the posture of a learner and teacher?

I did not know that these engineering lessons would impact my leadership years later. Funny, God wastes nothing. As an engineer, I cared so much about the design and manufacturing of consumer products. But I care much more about God, people, and making a difference in the world! In the same way, I encourage you to utilize your education and passions for The Kingdom.

You get the chance to change lives, make a difference, and impact eternity… right now! Step up and be that leader. Don’t waste this opportunity! Be diligent. Be urgent. Be excellent. Be geeky. The Kingdom is worth giving our all. You are an Everyday World Changer! Start today!

Do you have any other leadership tips to add to this list? Do you have a story of using your education and passions to be a leader and world change? Please comment below!