Who do you picture when you hear the term “emerging leader”?

Emerging Leaders

Who do you picture when you hear the term “emerging leader”? A newly minted P.Eng. aspiring to become a leader? Somebody who just got their first formal leadership role? What about the mid-career engineer who’s a star individual contributor but who wants a new challenge?

Leaders can emerge from many different places and not always from where you expect. In 1970, legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, famously observed: “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal which is worthwhile”.

A more recent (2020) article in the Harvard Business Review titled Anyone Can Learn to Become a Better Leaderunequivocally states “Occupying a leadership position is not the same thing as leading.”

These quotes underline two key facts about leadership:

  1. Merely having a title doesn’t make you a leader. You have put in the self-reflection and work to become a leader who builds teams, produces results, and makes a difference.
  2. Leadership skills can be learned.

The Bottom Line on the Bottom Line

We all know the adage that employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers. It’s true and it hurts your bottom line. Costs vary with the tenure of the staff member you lose, but you can expect to pay between 30% and 50% of an entry-level employee’s salary to replace them, and the numbers go up from there. Assuming an engineer is making a conservative $75,000, it will cost you a minimum of $22,500 to replace.

According to Glassdoor (in February 2022), the annual salary for an engineering manager in Toronto is roughly $133,000. So even at the low end of 30% you’ll pay almost $40,000 to replace that person if they’re lured away or decide to go work for a better director.

Further, those costs don’t reflect lost productivity, disruption, and even lower morale if your organization is experiencing high turn-over. Engineering firms – of any size – face competition for talent. Employee retention is directly affected by leadership up and down the corporate ladder, no matter how many rungs you may have. Failing to thoughtfully address your leadership function can negatively affect your business results.

Staff churn is often an indicator of a supervisor or manager who’s struggling. If that’s the case, you have two choices: keep footing the bill to replace people (at $20,000 a pop) or spend a fraction of that helping your supervisor/manager hone their leadership skills.

The Solution

Seeding your leadership pipeline and sustaining new supervisors is a forward-thinking strategy. Providing new leaders with a solid foundation early in their journeys can mitigate much bigger problems down the road.

OSPE’s Ontario Engineering Academy can support you in this effort with our new Emerging Leaders Certificate Program. It’s tailor-made for engineering and technical professionals who aspire to formal leadership as well as those who are just beginning their leadership journeys. The program is exclusive to OSPE and powered by Rzultz, a leadership consulting firm with deep roots in Ontario’s engineering community.

Investing in your people is as important as investing in your technology and infrastructure. Arm your emerging leaders with the skills they need to drive team and company goals. Contact Jamie Gerson, P.Eng., Strategic Partners, Engineering Academy at jgerson@ospe.on.ca to bring this targeted program to your organization.

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