Leadership for the Technically Minded: What Do Young Professionals Need to Know?

The common perception is that leaders in an organization are in the management team or have “lead” or “leader” in their title or job description. In the oil and gas industry, leaders are often senior executives, engineering managers, and project managers.  By nature, technical professionals prefer to be focused on technical work and resist significant management or leadership responsibilities.

To show YPs mainly from technical backgrounds how the core attitudes of leadership apply in their day-to-day work, the SPE YP Committee in Aberdeen conducted a workshop as part of Devex 2011. The workshop was attended by more than 70 keen YPs who were involved in solving challenging real-life case studies proposed by leaders in the oil and gas industry based on their various experiences. The case studies had scenarios whose success was possible only with a combination of technical skills and core leadership attitudes. During the event, participants broke into subgroups and solved the case studies under the supervision of panelists Leigh Ann Russell (wells manager, UK platform operations, BP), Steve Garrett (manager, Chevron Global Technology Centre), and Tom Pickering (managing director, Geometric Drilling).

The event’s novel theme and approach were well received by participants, who came from all over the UK. After the event, Sankesh Sundareshwar, Aberdeen YP chair, reflected that each case study highlighted unique challenges in the industry, but a definite lesson from all of them was that technical skills alone are not sufficient for YPs and without leadership skills one cannot play an important role in a team’s or an organization’s decision-making process.