What Qualities Make A Great Engineering Leader?


One often gets asked this question in the interview, and most of us spill off what Google1, Amazon2, or Apple have so nicely documented. None of those are wrong, necessarily. They outline great principles that govern some of the largest companies in the world. However, I'd like to argue that we leave out two key traits: being accessible and being available.

Most of us over our careers have had a manager who has told us they have an open-door policy, or maybe you are one yourself. Having an open-door policy expresses that your team can come to talk to you about anything. You want everyone to feel like they can come to you with their concerns and ideas, and this is admirable.

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So What Does It Mean To Be Accessible and Available?

Accessible leaders are good at putting people at ease and encouraging open and honest conversation. They provide coaching and guidance while also respecting the hierarchy they have established. Accessible leaders seek feedback, which shows that they value their subordinates' opinions as much as their own.

For a leader, being available is largely a matter of managing your time well. When you're a leader, the people you work with are a priority, and they deserve to know that.

Being available means spending time in conversation with your team members and colleagues. But it also means leaving room in your calendar for those unscheduled conversations. Make sure your team knows when and how to reach you—and then actually be there when they do! Be available for meetings as much as possible, especially when it comes to regularly scheduled meetings or one-on-ones.

By being there for each other, we build trust and respect among our team—and that makes us stronger as a whole.

Power Comes From Being Involved With Others

It's so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and forget that everyone else has the issues they're dealing with in life too.

But just think of how much more fulfilling life can be when you put aside a little time to help others with their problems, too.

Even if you're only able to take a few minutes out of your day to offer a listening ear, it can make all the difference in someone else's life.

When you think about it, there's no reason why we can't all be there for each other and make this world a better place at the end of the day!

Let's be honest, human interactions can be hard. And during these COVID times, it's been even harder to connect with those around us. While we're all humans, in many ways we're all different. And while it might feel like you're the only one who struggles to connect with others, that's just not true.

Having a team leader that's supportive of you when times get rough is so important—and it's vital in the workplace. According to research3, having a good social support network at work can lower your risk for burnout and can help you be more productive.

Now more than ever, we're depending on technology to facilitate our relationships.

In a time when people's worlds have shrunk to the size of their homes, having an arsenal of technological tools for communicating and collaborating is essential. But what if these tools aren't enough? What if togetherness requires something more?

We can't hack relationships. This doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and consistent effort to build these relationships within your team and your community, but it's worth it to take that time and make that effort. It requires a lot more to be a great engineering leader and to build relationships with your team members.

My favorite part of being a leader isn't the time when I sit at my desk alone, working on a project by myself. It isn't even when I present the finished product to my team or the client. The best moments are when I get to help my team members learn new skills or solve problems, and when they come back to me with questions or ideas of their own based on what they've learned.


In the end, being a leader isn't about having all the answers, or being able to answer every question on your own. It's about taking the time to truly be accessible and available to your team members. Be someone who truly helps those around you.

Lastly, I would like to point out that a simple but essential quality of a leader – one that's more abstract – is being able to trust their team. One of the best leaders I've had is Brett Peterson. His ability to trust his team even when we were in crunch time and under pressure showed me how a great leader supports and is there for the team. Thank you, Brett.


  1. https://www.atlassian.com/blog/leadership/qualities-of-an-effective-leader

  2. https://www.amazon.jobs/en/principles

  3. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2001-05924-006