Have we forgot to tell the girls that leadership in manufacturing is about people?

by Christina Villefrance Moeller, TalesOfLeading

Participating in the event Automation Småland 2015 in Sweden this week made me reflect on this question. It was an event for small and medium sized manufacturing companies in the area. Most of them were supplying the Swedish big four (Volvo cars, Volvo Trucks, SAAB and Scania) with automation solutions. They were trying to grasp the implications of Industrie 4.0 and how it could improve their business.

Capabilities needed

What everybody was talked about was the technical competencies young people needed to have, the innovative climate the companies needed to have, and how flexible they were as small companies. Now what’s that got to do with the girls? In all this talk about great technical achievements and trends for the future I missed the people dimension. Who is going to implement this? Who will lead these organizations and develop the skills and subsequently the business? Today it’s the boys driven by their enthusiasm for technique. However, the regional development manager Ulrika Geeraedts pointed at the problem that young female academics leave the region and don’t come back.

Leading in manufacturing is about people

In parallel with this event I was taking part of a discussion about Leaders & Leadership with Boaz Tamir director of the Israel Lean Institute. Referring to a meeting with other (male +50) leaders  he emphasized that leadership is about people. Though we can read a lot of books about leaders achieving great results. Leading does have a relational dimension not just in making a group of people work together, but also in providing them with a fertile ground for development. Now maybe this can attract interest from young female Engineers: working with people solving problems in manufacturing?

Without the task leading is homeless

Leading is also about the task you subordinates are working on. This dimension is sometimes neglected. The task frames the purpose of working together and provides it with meaning. A leader I once met developed his team by assigning tasks to them. Only one task at a time. Preferably small tasks you could solve within a few days. He didn’t tell them how to solve the task. He was available for discussions about possible methods and countermeasures. It was usually tasks they could not solve by themselves. They had to collaborate with their piers. Did they have the time (resources) for it? They found the time in between the ordinary daily work. At least that is how I remember it.

Dear nieces, girlfriends of my sons and mentees

Laura, Filippa, Rosemarie, Helene, Stine, Mathilde, Carla, Alma, Rebecca, Hannah, Rachel, Ramona, Hannah and Mamie please give engineering (and natural science) a chance. Katrine has already done it. And please consider taking leading positions. I’m sure you will do great.

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