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Exploring the Role of Ambiguity Tolerance in an Engineering Professional's Identity as a Leader

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Career Advancement Through Engineering Leadership Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development

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Paper Authors


Michele Norton Texas A&M University

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Michele Norton is a Postdoctoral Research Associate that is working with the METM program at Texas A&M on research related to narrative inquiry, engineering leadership education, leading technical teams, personal and team emotional intelligence, creativity, innovation and learnings on teams, coaching, utilizing design-based learning experiences to develop both individuals and teams, and a holistic view of designing and flourishing as the best-loved self and the best-loved team. Norton also does work with the Faculty for METM on designing experiential online learning experiences that foster deep learning within the virtual space.

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Ben Behbood Zoghi Texas A&M University

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Ben Zoghi is the Victor H. Thompson endowed Chair Professor of electronics engineering at Texas A and M University, where he directs the professional online Master of Engineering Technical Management (METM) in the College of Engineering and teaches Engineering Leadership using Emotional Intelligence. He is a frequent speaker for association and industry events on RFID, wireless sensor network, technology applications in oil and gas, and petrochemical industries globally.

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Engineering leaders acquire knowledge, skills, behaviors, and experiences throughout their career that are continually renegotiated in their ongoing sense-making of their personal narrative.  While research has shown that interventions or developmental experiences are beneficial for leadership development (i.e. Avolio, Reichard, Hannah, Walumbwa, & Chan, 2009), very little research has been done on understanding how individuals in the engineering field come to their self-definition of what it means to be a leader in the engineering field.  In coming to know their self-definition of being an engineering leader, identity can be explored from various aspects, including their perceptions of the meanings associated with a particular role (Stryker & Burke, 2000).  This research endeavor explored identity through the perceptions of graduate students aiming to earn an Engineering Technical Management degree and their beliefs about leading in the engineering field. The survey results showed that our current professionals in the program see a correlation between their belief as self as a leader and their belief in their ability to perform but do not see a correlation between their belief in ambiguity tolerance with their belief in the ability to perform or their self as a leader. As leaders today need to navigate the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) landscapes, understanding leaders and future leaders' perceptions of how this belief in ambiguity tolerance becomes part of their identity as a leader is critical to knowing how to develop leaders in the engineering field.

Norton, M., & Zoghi, B. B. (2021, July), Exploring the Role of Ambiguity Tolerance in an Engineering Professional's Identity as a Leader Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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