Leadership is a difficult term to clearly define. A team leader may have poor or wonderful leadership skills. A product may lead in a market with a broad feature offering, yet not hold a recognized leadership position.
As a reliability engineer, you will find many opportunities to lead. Your ability to provide vision, direction, guidance, and support for a team enables you to affect change and accomplish goals.
Product reliability is a common element of market leadership. The ability and attendant perception of a ‘rock solid’ product that just works provides an enviable market position.
Of course, the product has to actually solve a problem or provide value to the customer. Many products may provide a similar solution, yet if one product or brand is noticeably more reliable then the other offerings, it may become the market leader as a useful and dependable solution.
A leader in an organization may benefit, initially from a particular management position. A Director of Engineering has authority, yet may or may not be a leader.
A leader is someone others look to for direction, approval, guidance, and support. A leader enables a team to solve problems and achieve objectives together.
Reliability professionals regularly work with teams to implement:
- Design for reliability improvements,
- Reliability risk assessments,
- Environmental and life test programs,
- Process capability studies,
- Field reliability monitoring and product/process improvements,
- Root cause analysis and improvements.
The ability to lead is intertwined with your ability to influence.
Becoming a Leader
Everyone can be a leader. Some are better at leading than others. The good news is you can become a better leader. You can improve your leadership skills and your ability to influence outcomes.
Raise your hand, step up, organize a team. Get started leading by leading. Then get feedback. What worked well and what could use improvement. This is where a mentor, a manager or coworker that has the ability to provide honest and actionable feedback become invaluable.
It is with deliberate practice, practice with effective feedback, that permits you to improve.
Reading, taking online courses, and attending workshops all help you improve your awareness of your options for a given situation. It is practice with feedback that permits you to change your own behaviors and habits.
Leading effectively involves listening attentively, speaking well, writing clearly, and all the other soft skills in this chapter. Plus, it takes a willingness to support your team to achieve the desired objectives.
Leadership is a deliberate set of actions that inspires, guides, and supports a set of followers. It is your honest desire to achieve the desired outcome. When you are clear with the vision of the future, honest about the challenges, supportive of the needs of your team, and willing to work to clear obstacles, you will have taken on a meaningful leadership role.
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