Leader Character in Engineering Projects: A Case Study of Character Activation, Contagion, and Embeddedness

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We contribute to the blending of leadership and engineering by challenging the prioritization of technical competence over leadership competence in engineering projects, and by specifically highlighting the importance of bringing leader character into the conversation. Using a single-case-study methodology, with a university's Formula Society of Automotive Engineers organization, we examine and illustrate character activation in individuals, its contagion in groups, and how character can become embedded within an organization's nonhuman repositories, such as culture, processes, and policies. In doing this, we describe a multilevel view of character. In addition, we offer a practical account of how leader character is revealed in everyday practices and in critical moments in an engineering project in terms of technical, operational, and relational decisions. Findings from the case study show that character can change how competences are enacted, and therefore, organizational members can more effectively use their competences in the organization, and the character-competence interplay can contribute to performance gains of the project.



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