Despite being a “paradoxically obscure topic”  most people have an inkling about what leadership is, or what knowledge, skills, or attitudes leaders should have. This prior knowledge can help or hinder the deployment of a new leadership program if that new leadership program focuses on leadership principles which build upon, or are dramatically different from, the prior knowledge at the institution. Three universities are in the initial stages of launching engineering leadership programs and each wishes to build upon the foundational concepts or perceptions of faculty, students, and program stakeholders. This work (still in progress) presents the initial findings of a survey of faculty and students from three separate colleges of engineering: One, a small private institution; the other two are larger public institutions. Others started the faculty and student engagement using focus groups. We then augmented this initial work with industry focus groups. For each school the faculty and students are sent a link to respond to an online survey. All of the respective faculty and students are contacted via their university email. The survey consists of two kinds of survey items. The first set of questions is meant to determine the attitude and knowledge the respondent has about leadership. The second set involves providing short answer responses to open ended questions and statements to observe the key words used to describe leadership. The results of the survey show students, faculty, and practitioners all see leadership as something that is developed. That said, faculty and industry have a more nuanced view of leadership than do students as some of them felt that the traits of a leader are very important while none of the students rated ‘born traits’ higher than ‘somewhat’ important. The open ended responses also help inform the researchers that faculty and students see leadership as a self-development process, or a process of learning how to engage others. Very few faculty and students identified leadership as a tool to lead a cause. A similarly small number identified leadership with the ethical dimension. Faculty are already using certain tools to teach leadership without labeling it as such. Faculty stated that they utilize tools to develop student leadership by increasing self-awareness and social-awareness. Faculty do not currently employ lessons to teach leading a cause or leading ethically, but that could be because they consider that part of engineering practice and not leadership development. Students seek opportunities to learn more about developing themselves more and improving working with others. Their demand and the faculty supply of leadership opportunities creates an opportunity to build leadership programs at the three institutions.
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