Leadership for Engineering Managers



Case study 1: Aristotle (384 BC–322 BC)

As a student of Socrates attending the Academy in Athens, Greece, Aristotle’s association with two of antiquity’s greatest philosophers, Socrates and his teacher Plato, will be forever etched in history. Aristotle’s contributions to multiple disciplines of study qualify him as a Renaissance Man 16 centuries before the Italian Renaissance actually began (Knauer, 2012).

Born in 384 BC in Stagira, a Macedonian town in Greece, he was the son of a physician who served King Amyntas II of Macedonia. This unique relationship to royalty led to Aristotle’s appointment as tutor to the young prince Alexander, who would later become Alexander the Great (Bambrough, 2003). Aristotle entered Plato’s Academy in Athens around 367 BC to study for the next 20 years, where he became one of Plato’s best students and eventually a colleague. They bonded in the same manner that Plato had related to Socrates years earlier, as student and follower, and together these three would be considered as antiquity’s most influential philosophers. While Aristotle developed most of his philosophical foundations at the Academy, he remained a key companion in Plato’s life and philosophy until 347 BC, following the death of his mentor, leaving the Academy shortly thereafter (Charles River Editors, 2013).

After leaving Athens, Aristotle traveled in Asia Minor, where he collected and compiled botanical, zoological, and geological samples on the island of Lesbos (Knauer, 2012). Twelve years later, Aristotle returned to Athens to establish his own school, the Lyceum, only the second Athenian university, which soon began the rivalry with the Academy. The new learning institution placed emphasis on biological research, including a zoological museum as part of the campus, where Aristotle frequently lectured, continuing rich discussions with his students along porticos, or covered walkways. Mathematical emphasis was not part of study at

the Lyceum, where students investigated the principles of rational analysis and the science of formal logic. Aristotle’s scientific objectivity aligned focus on man’s soul while considering conduct, individually and socially. He valued historical thinking as it related to his current inquiry, seeking links with the work of his predecessors. Plato referred to him as “the reader,” as he became a renowned collector of manuscripts for the Lyceum’s additional role as a center for research (Tsanoff, 1953, p. 77).

As a philosopher primarily, Plato sought life’s absolutes, while Aristotle’s natural approach was to seek evidence from the world by gathering, dissecting, studying, and classifying nature’s gifts; he was considered a scientist and philoso- pher. His most renowned treatises, Politics, Physics, Metaphysics, De Anima (On the Soul), Nichomachean Ethics, and Poetics, were testament to his diverse range of interests. Further, his investigations in zoology, biology, logic, astronomy, anat- omy, geology, meteorology, and many others described his unquenchable thirst for discovery. From an academician’s perspective, Aristotle is regarded as the father of deductive reasoning and the formal science of logic (Knauer, 2012).

Nichomachean Ethics was the culmination of Aristotelian thought as it related to fundamental moral lessons though some argument exists as to whether it was written or edited by Aristotle, despite the title, which depicts a dedication to his son. The treatise flows in a somewhat natural manner indicative of a familiar teaching tool of the time, implying these may have been notes written by a former student. In the book, Aristotle attempts to describe the meaning of good considering his teachings on ethics as it relates to means and ends, leading to what he described as the good life. Accordingly, good is a supreme end and a goal which justifies existence, and this supreme good is happiness (Charles River Editors, 2013).

As Alexander’s empire grew and became more powerful, Aristotle’s opposing views on divinity sparked threatening letters from Alexander. Following Alex- ander’s death in 323 BC, Aristotle fled to the northwest territory after Athens turned against Macedon, making it an unsafe city for Alexander’s tutor. At the age of 62, Aristotle died in northwest Greece (Knauer, 2012).

Discussion questions

1. Why is it important to consider ancient philosophy in leadership develop- ment? What types of human or character issues from the past 2,500 years are relevant for today’s leader? Why do you think we are addressing the same issues after all of these years?

2. Was Aristotle a leader in his own right? Who was his teacher? Do you think his teacher/mentor impacted his values and beliefs? How? Who were Aristotle’s followers? What style, behaviors, or character strengths would you want your followers to emulate?

3. Although Aristotle was an early teacher and influencer of the young Alex- ander the Great, in the later years their differences eventually destroyed their

14 Historical leaders

relationship. How do you feel about followers challenging their leaders’ decisions? How does this discussion relate to the virtue of courage, or the character strength of bravery?


1. In the past 2,500 years of human existence, as people with human needs and emotions, have we changed much? Consider those foundational needs (physical and emotional).

2. For early philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, sharing wisdom from the past was critical to character development. Is this important in today’s education and leadership development? Why?

3. What can Aristotle teach us today? Can we apply any of these lessons in our leadership development?

Historical leaders 15

This page intentionally left blank

Case study 2: Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

The existence of Leonardo da Vinci from April 15, 1452 until May 2, 1519, provided mankind with the treasures of a world-renowned Italian Renaissance genius. His contributions to the fields of art, science, anatomy, mathematics, engineering, geology, and botany are still leveraged by scholars today. Known for such famous art contributions as The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Leonardo actually failed to complete many of his paintings, finishing an estimated 30 works of art in his lifetime (Jastifer & Toledo-Pereyra, 2012). Gifted leaders such as da Vinci have left their timeless influence and curiosity on both leaders and followers of today. How can we incorporate some of the magical inquiry of such exemplars into the fabric of our society? One way to discover the utility of such innovative mastery is to study or research the accomplishments of great leaders throughout history.

Fortunately for humankind, da Vinci began a lifetime practice of recording his observations in notebooks shortly after arriving in Milan in the 1480s. Sketches, lists, ideas, and art were captured on individual pages and within multiple volumes of notebooks in all shapes and sizes, some carried on his belt for field notes. These small books on his belt and other larger sheets for his studio became the repositories for his diverse obsessions and passions, many combined on the same page. As an engineer, he developed his skills, drawing mechanisms he imagined. To satisfy his artistic interests, he sketched preliminary drawings. He recorded costume designs, emotive stage props, and scenery, and drafted scripts to capture his performing arts ideas. In the margins of his pages, he would scribble to-do lists, records of expenses, and sketches of characters he imagined. Throughout the years, as his scientific inquiry matured, he filled pages with outlines and passages on a multitude of topics such as flight, water, anatomy, art, horses, mechanics, and geology (Isaacson, 2017b). These notebooks, comprising over 7,200 pages, represent approximately one quarter of his notes and have been called “the most astonishing testament to the powers of human observation and imagination ever set down on paper” (Isaacson, 2017b, p. 106).

It has been estimated that da Vinci accomplished approximately 30 cadaver dissections in two hospitals in Florence and Rome in order to study anatomical movement and apply expression to his art. What has been referred to as da Vinci’s greatest triumph of combining art, science, optics, and illusion was created in his final version of Mona Lisa’s smile, a masterpiece that he began in 1503 and continued until his death 16 years later. To capture the intricacies of such a unique gesture in art required dissecting multiple human cadaver faces while tracing the muscles that move the lips, incorporating the knowledge of optic perceptions. Mona Lisa’s, smile according to critics, reacts to one’s gaze, a flickering smile that seems to linger in our minds, integrating motion and emotion in art (Isaacson, 2017a). Does this make Leonardo an early pioneer of virtual reality? Building on the work of Vitruvius, a 1st-century Roman architect, da Vinci created his version depicting anatomical mathematics. Vitruvius wrote a ten-book collection on architecture, one of which focused on the measurements of temples based on the perfect proportions of the human body (Fairchild, 2016). The Vitruvian Man by da Vinci was developed

Historical leaders 17

in 1487 to illustrate anatomical and mechanical relationships. Several of his anato- mical observations have focused on mathematical conclusions such as arm, knee, and foot length correlations to overall human height (Jastifer & Toledo-Pereyra, 2012). In one translation of his anatomy concept, he describes this relationship further:

If you open your legs enough that your head is lowered by one-fourteenth of your height and raise your hands enough that your extended fingers touch the line of the top of your head, know that the centre of the extended limbs will be the navel, and the space between the legs will be an equilateral triangle.

(Isaacson, 2017b, p. 155)

Throughout his life, Leonardo boasted that he was not formally educated, but learned through his own life experiences. Around 1490, he wrote that he was “a man without letters” and considered himself a “disciple of experience” – a defensive reaction against those scholars citing the wisdom of the ancients as opposed to practical experience (Isaacson, 2017b, p. 170). These differences set him apart from the typical Renaissance archetype of the past, whose wisdom was founded on the rediscovery of classical antiquity. Interestingly, the merits of this argument still resonate today in academic leadership discussions contrasting formal education in leadership with organizational leadership experiences.

Discussion questions

1. What leadership lessons can we glean from Leonardo da Vinci? Innovative pioneers like da Vinci are extremely rare. Can you think of anyone today that comes close to his contributions? Describe them.

2. What character strengths seem to drive da Vinci? What would be a few of his signature character strengths? Do you believe that he was able to leverage these throughout his life? How?

3. In your experiences, have you ever known anyone that possessed any of these gifts or skills? One day in the future, you may have someone with similar interests working under your leadership. How would you influ- ence someone of this caliber? What could you do to cultivate their gifts?


1. Was there a particular characteristic exhibited by da Vinci that resonated with you? What steps could you take to develop this area?

2. In today’s world of technology, information overload often limits our ability to focus on subjects of interest. How can you use time management to satisfy your intellectual curiosity? Is that important to you?

3. What can you do tomorrow to incorporate some of these positive skills or behaviors within your leadership development?

18 Historical leaders

Case study 3: Wilbur Wright (1867–1912) and Orville Wright (1871–1948)

No birds soar in a calm. – Wilbur Wright

Is it hard to believe that airpower was developed in a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio? Wilbur and Orville Wright were fascinated by the idea of flight, and began their development of the airplane in their own Wright Cycle Co., founded in 1892. Their obsession to put man in the air was hampered by a multitude of obstacles, and in some cases they had to create new technologies to continue their dream. When halted by unavailable aeronautical progress, they created their own wind tunnel to solve challenges for lifting their flying machine into the sky. Additionally, in their pursuit of achieving air travel, they made several historical discoveries along the way, such as appropriate wing shapes, moving their vehicle up and down on a cushion of air, pitch (nose up or down) and yaw (side-to-side) movement, and a wing-warping system to change their craft’s direction (Gates, 2012).

Moreover, when the brothers were challenged with finding a light-weight engine to power their aircraft, such technology was not yet available, encouraging them to build their own 12 horsepower light-weight engine (152 pounds) to successfully launch their 1903 Wright Flyer (Gates, 2012, p. 45). On December 17, 1903, Orville took the controls as the Flyer made its first official flight from the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, traveling 120 feet in the air, changing human travel forever.

How can two brothers dedicate their lives to such an impossible dream? According to their father, they were not only “inseparable as twins,” but they were “indispensable” to each other as partners (McCullough, 2015, p. 6). They lived together, ate their meals together, and worked together six days a week, and even shared a joint bank account. Those in Dayton would remark that the brothers were self-contained, industrious, and always together. The brothers loved music – Wilbur played the harmonica and Orville liked the mandolin – both liked to cook, their handwriting was very similar, and their voices were so alike that unless you saw them speaking, they were indistinguishable. Similar to their father and sister Katharine, the brothers were highly energetic and worked every day but Sunday, and they were at their best when working on projects together. They wore shop aprons to protect their suits and ties, and although Orville was typically better dressed, women found Wilbur (at 5 feet 10 inches, a bit taller than Orville) to be more mysterious and attractive.

Although very close in many ways, the brothers had their differences. Wilbur moved and gestured with a more active approach, walking with long, rapid strides. Orville preferred a normal pace of movement and was a bit more reserved. Wilbur usually remained imperturbable in most circumstances, and was an exceptional public speaker and a clear writer with an impressive vocabulary and superior use of language (at his father’s insistence). Orville was referred to as

Historical leaders 19

the more gentle of the two brothers and described as somewhat shy in public, a trait inherited from their mother, deferring any public roles to Wilbur. However, Orville was considered more cheerful, more optimistic, and a natural entrepre- neur; his mechanical ingenuities were key to all of their projects. Despite four years’ difference in age, Wilbur and Orville commonly shared one very strong bond: a unity of purpose as aviation pioneers (McCullough, 2015, p. 6).

After years of research and perseverance through many aerodynamic and mechanical impediments, Wilbur and Orville were on the brink of making history in aviation on December 14, 1903. Returning to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the air currents were ideal for lift, Wilbur won the coin toss to pilot the newly powered Wright Flyer. Visitors were welcome, as was evident by a flag set out for locals to see from the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station to signal their intent to test their flying machine. They encouraged this to provide witnesses and manpower to help guide the heavy Flyer up the launch track to the top of the sand hills; they needed all the help they could muster. As the motor warmed up, Wilbur positioned himself in the paddle hip cradle, designed to control the wing-warping actions for navigation. Unfortunately, the restraining wire on one of the wings slipped, causing the Flyer to move too quickly for Orville to guide it from the track, resulting in too much elevation. The flying machine climbed only a few feet before it stalled and returned to the ground 105 feet below the hill after only three and a half seconds in the air. Obviously, this was not recorded as an actual flight due to the stall, but the new launching track system had proven successful (Heppenheimer, 2003). Wilbur kept the family in Dayton apprised with the following telegraph: “MISJUDGEMENT AT START REDUCED FLIGHT ONE HUNDRED TWELVE POWER AND CONTROL AMPLE RUDDER ONLY INJURED SUCCESS ASSURED KEEP QUIET” (Hep- penheimer, 2003, p. 205). Although the aborted flight had travelled 112 feet, they were determined to gain more distance. Also, the Flyer was damaged and needed minor repairs before the next attempt.

On December 16, they were ready to attempt another flight and the winds were acceptable, so they laid the track in the sands near the hangar to prepare for the flight, but the breezes decreased, so they waited until the afternoon, to no avail. They decided to try their luck the next day. On the morning of December 17, 1903, the sky was overcast, a stiff gale was blowing 27 miles per hour from the north according to their anemometer, and they were ready for a test flight. Bill Tate, a local man from their earliest Kitty Hawk trials, stated “no one but a crazy man would attempt to fly in such wind” (Heppenheimer, 2003, p. 206). Years later, Orville admitted that he would not have made such a flight in a strange machine, even if he knew the machine was proven safe, in such winds. The signal flag was set out to alert the local community of an impending flight, and Orville placed his camera on a tripod facing the end of the track. Since Wilbur had won the last toss of the coin, it was now Orville’s turn at the controls of the Flyer. John Daniels, one

20 Historical leaders

of the lifesavers from the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station, took over the camera, ready to squeeze the bulb at the perfect moment in flight. Orville describes the flight:

After running the motor a few minutes to heat up, I released the wire that held the machine to the track, and the machine started forward into the wind. Wilbur ran at the side of the machine, holding the wing to balance it on the track. Unlike the start on the 14th, made in a calm, the machine, facing a 27-mile wind, started very slowly. Wilbur was able to stay with it till it lifted from the track after a forty-foot run. One of the Life Saving men snapped the camera for us, taking a picture just as the machine had reached the end of the track and had risen to a height of about two feet. The slow forward speed of the machine over the ground is clearly shown . . . by Wilbur’s attitude. He stayed along beside the machine without any effort.

(Heppenheimer, 2003, p. 206)

In one of the most famous photos in aviation history, Daniel captured Wilbur as a black silhouette next to the Flyer as Orville lies prone within the airplane displaying his neatly polished shoes. Both men were dressed smartly that day, as was their usual habit, in business suits, clean-shaven, sporting ties and starched shirts, suited for an historic day in aviation (Heppenheimer, 2003). On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong who coincidentally was another American aviator born and raised in Ohio, walked on the surface of the moon, he carried with him a small swatch of the muslin (cotton fabric) from a wing of the 1903 Flyer.

Discussion questions

1. What character strengths drove the Wright brothers to complete their goal and solve the problem of human flight?

2. Do you think these brothers shared the same strengths and weaknesses? What advantages do you think they had as brothers to solve such an enormous challenge together? Share any sibling experiences where you had to work together to solve a problem. Do you think that having similar backgrounds and values was advantageous?

3. In your experiences, have you ever known any leaders or colleagues that have demonstrated such a relentless pursuit of achievement? Some critics have called the Wright brothers obsessive over their flying exploits. What is your opinion?


1. Did you connect at any point with the struggles or drives of the Wright brothers? As a developing leader, what can you learn about such remarkable leaders in history? What can leaders glean from history?

Historical leaders 21

2. For the Wright brothers, many technologies that they required to solve their problems with flight were not yet invented. As developing leaders, we often discover that we may not have the resources (technology, funding, man- power, etc.) to meet our goals. How should we approach this dilemma?

3. What actions can you take tomorrow to realize your dreams and aspirations? Who knows, you could be the next great pioneer!

22 Historical leaders

Case study 4: Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web. That is why we must not discriminate between things. Where things are concerned there are no class distinctions. We must pick out what is good for us where we can find it . . ..

– Pablo Picasso (quoted in Barr, 1946, p. 273)

Most art in the 20th century was either inspired by, contributed to, or as in the Cubism movement, co-founded (with Georges Braque) by Pablo Picasso. The artist from Spain, through his controversial work, was the subject of unceasing analysis, gossip, dislike, adoration, and rumor during his prime. His use of modern sculpture as a medium involved welding and assembling pieces of sheet metal as opposed to traditional methods using molding clay, casting in bronze, or wood carving. His Cubist technique involved building collages by gluing unre- lated objects and images on a flat surface as his modern art approach. Although not typically considered as a Surrealist, Picasso produced some of the most frightening distortions of the human body and the most violently irrational erotic images of Eros and Thanatos in the 1920s and 1930s. Additionally, he was not a realist, but Guernica is still considered one of the most powerful political images in modern art (Hughes, 2012).

What can we discern from world-class artists that have influenced not only art history, but cultures through their creative expression? Do we all have these artistic visions or aspirations? How can leaders not only leverage, but harness these creative passions from their followers? At 11:15 in the evening on October 25, 1881, in the city of Málaga, Spain, Picasso was delivered as a stillborn baby. He did not breathe or cry, and the midwife, giving up on the baby, turned her attention to his mother. His uncle, Dr. Salvador Ruiz, happened to be present, and leaned forward and exhaled cigar smoke in Pablo’s face, at which he stirred with life and began to scream – a genius was born (Mailer, 1995).

Picasso’s father, José Ruiz, was an art professor, and taught Pablo how to draw at an early age, when he showed exceptional talent. After years of receiving encouragement and competent academic instruction from his father, he was soon enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Corunna. In 1897, Picasso, at the age of 16, exhibited paintings in Barcelona, and the exhibitions were noted in the press. Later, in Madrid, he won a prize for a painting at a national exhibition. Picasso’s paintings of the late 1890s varied from still life to portraits. During this period, he mainly used pastels and oils, and also experimented with ceramics. After visiting Paris around 1901, he developed an interest in fresco (mural) paintings. During the following years, he drew incessantly in notebooks with rapid sketches of satirical, wicked, sentimental, and religious characters, as if bursting with creativity (Barr, 1946).

Historical leaders 23

Over the course of Picasso’s productive years in art, he was not loyal to any particular medium as most artists are today: he painted in oil and gouache mixed with sand or sawdust, producing drawing in ink, pencil, pastel, and crayon, etchings in various forms such as woodcuts or lithographs, sculpture in plaster and wood, cast in bronze, compositions in paper and cloth pasted, pinned or sewn, constructions of wrought iron, wood, paper, or sheet metal, photographs, and designs for theater costumes, curtains, and sets. During a time when social pressures – democratic, collectivist, and bourgeois – often restricted freedoms of the individual, Picasso remained true to himself. His art was a reflection of his inner compulsions, and claimed responsibility only to himself: “I can and will paint in no other way” (Barr, 1946, p. 11). Picasso’s uncontrolled individualism was often seen as heroic, while he kept his political inclinations out of his art. When the Luftwaffe bombed a town in Spain in 1937, he painted the famous Guernica (11 feet 6 inches × 25 feet 8 inches), an image of horror and rage against “brutality and darkness,” not against the Germans or fascism. Picasso’s work has been classified into five different development periods: the Blue Period, the Rose Period, Cubism, the Classical Period, and Surrealism.

The Blue Period

Between 1901 to 1904, this first development period was characterized as a time of loneliness and depression for Picasso, and it was during this time that his close friend, Carlos Casagemas, took his own life. His art depicted poverty, isolation, and anguish, almost entirely in tones of blue and green colors. Blue Nude, La Vie, and The Old Guitarist were completed during this period.

The Rose Period

Picasso had recovered from his depression by 1905, and his work began display- ing warmer colors of beiges, pinks, and red tones, leading to the Rose Period. He had two reasons to uplift his spirits during this time: he was not only prosperous due to a generous art dealer, but he was desperately in love with a beautiful model, Fernande Olivier. Family at Saltimbanques, Gertrude Stein, and Two Nudes were famous works during this period.


This style was an important abstract movement that he co-founded with another artist, Georges Baroque. In this style, objects are dissected and reassembled, high- lighting geometric shapes from multiple perspectives. Some critics describe this style as producing very collage-like effects. Because of the destructive nature of this style, in the art world, Cubism shocked, appalled, and fascinated many observers. A famous yet shocking piece during this period depicted five nude prostitutes that were distorted and fragmented, entitled Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

24 Historical leaders

The Classical Period

From 1918 to 1927 Picasso made a brief return to realism, which was a departure from his predominant experimental approach. The outbreak of World War I led to his next art influence, as it became more somber and depicted reality. The most interesting works during this period include Three Women at the Spring, Two Women Running on the Beach/The Race, and The Pipes of Pan.


Although Picasso did not consider himself a Surrealist, his dark, dreamlike Cubist pieces had manifested into this category, particularly Guernica, which was con- sidered a powerful example of this movement depicting the horrors of war (Biography.com Website, 2017).

In a conversation with Christian Servos, a lifelong friend and literary partner, in 1935, Picasso shared these words:

Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting people have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world, though we can’t explain them.

(quoted in Barr, 1946, p. 274)

Pablo Picasso has become one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His powerful impact on so many different art movements during his time have been immortalized. Further, Picasso has been recognized for not only his diversity in artistic styles, but his capacity to continually reinvent himself, which he referred to as his dedication to objectively evaluate each piece for form and technique to achieve his desired effect.

Discussion questions

1. What can we learn from Pablo Picasso? As a creative artist who has constantly reinvented himself, how did this flexibility affect his overall success? Have you known any leaders that have changed their styles? Describe this experience. Positive or negative?

2. Was Picasso a leader? Explain. Did he lean towards any transformational behaviors? Describe some of his behaviors that we would typically observe in transformational leaders. What were his shortcomings?

3. Describe all of the character strengths that you …