Communication, Honesty among Traits Most Desired and Lacking in Corporate Leaders, ASQ Survey Says

Communication, Honesty among Traits Most Desired and Lacking in Corporate Leaders, ASQ Survey Says

Engineers not seen as having high CEO potential

For Immediate Release

MILWAUKEE, Wis., Feb. 18, 2014 — The qualities workers value most in their company’s leaders are the same qualities they find most lacking, according to a new ASQ survey conducted by Kelton Global.

Thirty percent of workers surveyed say honesty is the trait they value most in their company’s leaders, while 22 percent cite communication skills. Critical thinking and commitment also were noted as key leadership qualities at 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively, according to the survey.

Yet those surveyed said communicating well (20 percent) and honesty (16 percent) also are the qualities they believe to be leaders’ biggest shortcomings.

The survey, which was fielded in January in advance of National Engineers Week, Feb. 16–22, was conducted in conjunction with a survey of ASQ member engineers exploring their opportunities and desires to be corporate leaders and the skills needed to be successful.

Like those who responded to the Kelton survey, nearly 30 percent of ASQ member engineers cite honesty as the skill most important to being an effective leader, followed by communication skills at 20 percent.

Engineers confident in ability to be leaders

According to the engineers polled by ASQ, 69 percent say their skill set provides a solid foundation for a successful CEO. However, only 9 percent of workers surveyed for ASQ by Kelton say engineers would make the best CEOs, behind those in operations (23 percent), finance (17 percent), marketing (14 percent), academia (13 percent) and sales (11 percent).

 “Despite the fact that some of the greatest business leaders in history, from Henry Ford to Lee Iacocca, have been engineers, many people don’t connect engineers with the boardroom,” said Cheryl Birdsong-Dyer, an ASQ member and professional process engineer. “But engineers who can combine their analytical and critical thinking skills with strong communication ability can be a powerful asset when it comes to top-level decision making.”

According to the ASQ survey of member engineers, 61 percent are currently in a management or leadership role, with nearly 75 percent overseeing up to nine employees, and 14 percent supervising 10-19 employees. Of the engineers who have attained a leadership position at their organization, 65 percent say certifications — like the ones offered by ASQ — have played a key role in achieving the position.

“Many of the quality engineers that we see in management positions take advantage of a variety of training and educational opportunities to ensure a well-rounded skill set,” said ASQ CEO Paul Borawski.

Problem-solving skills strong, people skills are not

Sixty-nine percent of the respondents of the ASQ member survey said engineering skills provide a strong base for a successful CEO, adding:

  • “Problem solving is at the root of engineering. That is at the foundation of what a CEO does.”
  • “Engineering skills include analytical thinking and problem solving, which are essential for being in a leadership position.”
  • “Strong engineering skills allow [a] CEO to make [wiser] decisions.”
  • “Engineers are more organized and logical thinkers. They reason through the consequences of a decision before making a commitment.”

But not all engineers believe they have the skills to be a successful CEO — 17 percent — saying leaders need more than strong analytical skills:

  • “Engineers tend to be too honest. They say what they think. CEOs say what needs to be heard.”
  • “[Engineers] do not see the big picture!”
  • “Engineers are not people persons.”

Furthermore, of the 39 percent of engineers polled who are not in a leadership role, 20 percent have no interest in reaching a leadership role, while only 16 percent have a high interest in attaining a leadership role, according to the survey of engineers.

ASQ — the leading authority on quality in all fields, organizations and industries — has more than 14,000 members who are engineers. ASQ provides engineers and professionals in other STEM-related careers the quality tools to help them succeed.

About the Surveys

The ASQ leadership survey was conducted by Kelton Global between Jan. 2 and Jan. 9 among 1,027 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and older using an email invitation and an online survey. Margin of error = +/- 3.1 percent. The poll of ASQ member engineers was conducted between Jan. 2 and Jan. 16 among 444 ASQ members who identify themselves as engineers using an email invitation and online poll.

About Kelton

Kelton is a leading global insights firm serving as a partner to more than 100 of the Fortune 500 and thousands of smaller companies and organizations. Utilizing a wide range of customized, innovative research techniques and staff expertise in marketing, branding, PR, media and business strategy, Kelton helps drive clients’ businesses forward. For more information, visit

About ASQ
ASQ is a global community of people dedicated to quality who share the ideas and tools that make our world work better. With millions of individual and organizational members of the community in 150 countries, ASQ has the reputation and reach to bring together the diverse quality champions who are transforming the world’s corporations, organizations and communities to meet tomorrow’s critical challenges. ASQ is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., with national service centers in China, India, Mexico and a regional service center in the United Arab Emirates. Learn more about ASQ’s members, mission, technologies and training at

Featured advertisers

ASQ is a global community of people passionate about quality, who use the tools, their ideas and expertise to make our world work better. ASQ: The Global Voice of Quality.