June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Engineering Leadership Development Division
26.631.1 - 26.631.7
Engineering Leadership as Principled NonconformityIn a series of provocative papers published between 1995 and 2000, Carol Steiner argued that theskills and attitudes required for leadership, innovation, and management, “are unlikely to bedeveloped in conventional engineering education because they fall outside of the engineeringparadigm” (“Educating for Innovation and Management: The Engineering Educators’ Dilemma,”1998, p. 1). Although Steiner has apparently not sustained her interest in the preparing scientistsfor careers in industry, her approach provides an interesting point of departure for taking aphilosophical approach to engineering leadership.Following Kuhn’s (1970) concept of membership in a discipline, Steiner defines competence “asbeing committed to the beliefs, practices, and values of one’s discipline” and accepting “one’sprofessional role and identity without challenge” (“Teaching Scientists to Be Incompetent:Educating for Industry Work,” 2000, p. 123). Following Heidigger, Steiner contrasts competencewith authenticity and individuality and suggests that “Authentic persons are nonconformists whorecognize their capacity to operate sometimes outside professional, cultural and socialparadigms” (2000, p. 129). If one accepts these claims, it follows that engineering leadershiprequires principled nonconformity to the “beliefs, practices, and values” that engineeringeducation is structured to inculcate.This paper develops the concept of principled nonconformity not in opposition to the paradigmthat engineering education aims to impart, but rather as an opportunity for engineers to developthe perspective required to judge when it makes sense depart from that paradigm. In particular, ithighlights the role of liberal education in exposing students to paradigms other than theengineering paradigm and in developing engineering leadership capability.
Neeley, K. A. (2015, June), Engineering Leadership as Principled Nonconformity Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23969
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