Workplace Research

Our two multi-phased, mixed methods engineering leadership projects examine how engineers think about and enact leadership across their career trajectories. Please visit our TSpace research repository to view our publications.

Engineering Leadership Project I

The first Engineering Leadership Project (ELP I) used grounded theory and an industry-based survey to connect the daily experiences of professional engineers to leadership theory. Our analysis of interview and focus group data revealed that engineers tend to resist the notion of leadership unless it is framed in a professionally relevant manner. Three distinct orientations to engineering leadership emerged from our work: Technical Mastery, Collaborative Optimisation and Organisational Innovation. Our subsequent analysis of survey data taught us that the leadership orientations of engineers shift over time and across situations. ILead instructors have used a condensed, self-scored version of this survey to facilitate the leadership learning of engineering students and professionals.

The Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering Dean’s Strategic Fund and a consortium of companies (Hatch, Vale, ERCO Worldwide and Google Canada) funded this study.

Relevant Publications  

Reeve, Douglas W. (2010). There is an urgent need for engineering leadership education. Engineering Leadership Review, 1(1), 1-6.

Reeve, Douglas W, Sacks, Robin, Rottmann, Cindy, Daniels, Frieda, & Wray, Adam. (2013). Engineer leadership in organizations and the implications for curriculum development. Paper presented at the Canadian Engineering Education Association Conference, Montreal, QC.

Reeve, Douglas W, Rottmann, Cindy, & Sacks, Robin. (2014). A responsibility to promote leadership: Engineering entrepreneurs speak back to resistance. Paper presented at the Canadian Engineering Education Association Conference, Calgary, Alberta.

Reeve, Douglas W, Rottmann, Cindy, & Sacks, Robin. (2015). The ebb and flow of engineering leadership orientations. Paper presented at the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, Seattle, WA.

Rottmann, Cindy, Sacks, Robin, & Reeve, Douglas W. (2015). Engineering leadership: Grounding leadership theory in engineers’ professional identities. Leadership, 11(3), 351-373. doi: 10.1177/1742715014543581

Rottmann, Cindy, Reeve, Douglas W, Sacks, Robin, & Klassen, Mike. (2016). An intersubjective analysis of engineering leadership across organizational locations: Implications for higher education. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 46(4), 146-173.

Engineering Leadership Project II

The second Engineering Leadership Project (ELP II) (2014-2018) investigates how engineers learn to lead across their career trajectories.  Phase One used a large-scale survey to examine how undergraduate engineering students’ co-curricular and extracurricular involvement influenced their development as engineers and as leaders. Phase Two focused on the university-to-work transition of engineering graduates. It examined how junior engineers navigate the job market, adjust to their respective workplaces and practice leadership at this stage of their careers.  The final phase of the project will explore the career transitions of professional engineers who have taken on formal leadership roles in their organisations.

Our findings from phase one have helped us engage university administrators and student life professionals in conversations about the impact of co-curricular involvement on engineering students’ leadership identity and skill development. Phase two findings functioned as the cornerstone for two Community of Practice conferences with students and industry partners. In the final phase, we will use a leadership development survey with senior engineers and career history interviews with key informants to develop an evidence-based engineering leadership case study resource.

The Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering Dean’s Strategic Fund, the Ontario Human Capital Research Innovation Fund, and a consortium of companies (Hatch, ERCO Worldwide, Chemtrade Logistics, Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), Toronto Hydro, Accenture, Kijiji Canada, Enwave Energy Corporation and RL Solutions) are funding this study.

Relevant Publications

Rottmann, Cindy, Sacks, Robin, Klassen, Mike, & Reeve, Douglas. (2016). Sports, arts and concrete canoes: Engineers learning to lead outside the formal curriculum. Paper presented at the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, New Orleans, LA.

Klassen, Mike, Kovalchuk, Serhiy, Reeve, Douglas & Sacks, Robin. (2017). Leading from the Bottom Up: Leadership Conceptions and Practices Among Early Career Engineers. Paper to be presented at the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, OH.

Kovalchuk, Serhiy, Ghali, Mona, Klassen, Mike, Reeve, Douglas & Sacks, Robin. (2017). Transitioning from University to Employment in Engineering: The Role of Curricular and Co-Curricular Activities. Paper to be presented at the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, OH.