The Back Page


 

The View from Here  authored by Richard G. Weingardt, PE, always occurred on the back page of Structural Engineer magazine.

Reprinted from civil + structural Engineer magazine, published by Zweig Group.

All of the content from the former Structural Engineer magazine is now posted on www.cenews.com. You can find the archived issues at http://cenews.com/archive.

Richard Weingardt

Richard Weingardt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A View From Here – December 2002

POWER & CHARACTER

As your rise to the top…you want to be remembered as much for your honor and character as for your good deeds.”

“Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Virtually every structural engineer knows how to do something that adds value to our society – designing a bridge, a building, or a tower, for example.

That attribute positions structural engineers for a certain amount of power and for societal leadership in a wide array of venues.

How each structural engineer handles this potential for power varies. Many are gracious about the advantages it affords them, while a few are brash know-it-alls, with whom it is difficult to get along. Others are content to use this ability to be helpful – ofter the subservient and silent supporters of the grand designs of others. Some engineers, though, greatly expand on their know-how potential by coupling it with other powers (detailed below), resulting in influence that reaches beyond engineering.

Which course are you pursuing? Whichever it is will establish not only your professional destiny but also the reach of your work.

One shortcoming of a profession such as engineering is that it becomes easy for those in it to mistake rechnical competence with sound judgment or leadership abilities. Being a technical expert, however, doesn’t translate into being a pacesetter or leader. For that to happen, other crucial powers are necessary.

One shortcoming of a profession such as engineering is that it becomes easy for those in it to mistake rechnical competence with sound judgment or leadership abilities. Being a technical expert, however, doesn’t translate into being a pacesetter or leader. For that to happen, other crucial powers are necessary.

The four key powers good leaders possess are as follows:

Affiliated power – Affiliated power is to have the know-how to get things done or to possess a skill that adds value; attributes possessed by engineers, as well as by people who expertly repair automobiles or machines.

Delegated power – Delegated power, or administrative power, comes from social stature, such as being the CEO of a company, the elected or appointed chairperson of a committee, or the head of state. If you are an officer in your firm, your positions’s power induces employees and fellow workers to do your will.

Delegated power was what President Harry Truman ­ a poorly thought of leader at the time – used when he fired General Douglas MacArthur for insubordination during the Korean war.

Rainmaker power – Rainmaker ower comes from the ability to get work, clients, customers or voters – whatever is needed to keep the enterprise funded, alive, and healthy. Behind the scenes political power brokers use this trait daily.

Acquired power – Acquired power is the “biggie” that most leaders and trendsetters acknowledge as true power. People have acquired power because of who they are and what they stand for. It is based upon unique experiences, personal virtues, and the ability to inspire others with ideas. Often, the holder of such power is not a captain of industry or head of state. India’s Mahatma Gandhi – revered as the father of his country – exemplifies the immense strength of this type of power.

The first two powers – affiliated and delegated – are transferred to someone new when a person leaves office or loses his or her position. In a similar way, rainmaker power is lost when someone else in the company emerges as a better rainmaker. Acquired power, however, always moves with a person wherever he or she may go. It only disappears when the individual possessing it dies. And frequently, the influence of those having acquired power, like Gandhi, remains long after the individual has gone to the grave.

Outstanding leaders, within and outside of engineering, use all four types of power. Yet few leaders become commanding figures in their own profession or in society without mastering at least two of the four powers.

Being familiar with the powers that big picture leaders have and use is critical for engineers wanting to increase their influence in their field and communities. Being well versed on the core principles of leadership is, likewise, important, But to have far-reaching impact, structural engineers must get beyond “knowing “ and start “doing.” They must commit to a life-long plan of action, one that will hone their natural leadership talents and develop sound communication skills.

Because professional associations, such as engineering societies, rely on the active participation of volunteers, their leaders need to be skilled at using acquired power to get things done. Volunteers aren’t normally motivated by threats nor are they dismissed in the same way paid employees are. Similarly, effective community leaders usually rely heavily on the use of acquired power to accomplish their goals.

There is no reason why more structural engineers cannot be the pillars in their communities. From the training involved, structural engineers already possess needed for leadership – affiliated power. They need only realize the other three and create a vision others will follow. To begin, find role models and/or mentors who have impeccable character. Study them and adopt their more worthy behaviors.

As you plot your future and strive for power, take a stand and push the frontiers; challenge yourself and those around you to reach the next level. As you rise to the top, heed Lincoln’s warning and don’t let power corrupt you. You want to be remembered as much for your honor and character as for your deeds.

FOR A COPY OF THIS ARTICLE
CONTACT EVELYN WEINGARDT: ewengardt@weingardt.com.

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