Servant Leadership: Engineers as Instruments of Change

In this digital age where information is consumed primarily online, ACEC Colorado will now be hosting a monthly blog to help perpetuate our statewide initiative to Stand As Stewards for the business of engineering. Our blog series will serve as an online platform to elevate awareness and help establish engineering professionals in the public’s mind as visionary leaders in creating a better quality of life for all.

Servant Leadership: Engineers as Instruments of Change

With the holiday season upon us, this time of year is synonymous with charitable giving and preparing for change in the upcoming new year. Several firms embody this sense of giving by offering their employees opportunities to donate their time at a homeless shelter or collect toys and warm clothes for the less fortunate. Although these actions are commendable, what about the other 11 months of the year? What are we, as engineers, doing to give back to our communities and institute change all year round?

ACEC Colorado’s Immediate Past President, Elizabeth Stolfus, PE, challenges engineers to reconsider their potential impact on their communities by extending their engineering expertise to seemingly unlikely sources. Below is an excerpt from an article Stolfus wrote about servant leadership and how engineers can be instruments of change all year round; not just during the holiday season.

Servant Leadership
Often when we as engineers speak of changing the world, we are constructing something new or reinvigorating something old. When engineers stand as stewards to affect change in all aspects of our work, our efforts reach beyond initial assignments and result in a positive impact for the people and communities that are beneficiaries of our efforts.

Engineering professionals deliver health, safety and welfare for the public in all that we create. For us, these are paramount responsibilities. We are trained to assimilate input from multiple sources. We are also trained to respect each other’s expertise and to understand where the adjacency of our work elements requires coordination and collaboration to achieve optimal results. Nearly everything we touch requires effort from many to produce a single outcome.

As an example, since 2011, I have personally worked with engineers, emergency responders, and communications professionals in Northern Colorado and across the state to reduce the effects of highway incidents on emergency responders and the traveling public. We are targeting the reduction of “struck by” incidents, secondary crashes and road user delays. The outcome is set to be an emergency plan that would increase communication to expedite emergency response efforts.

In this instance, at project initiation, success was all about gathering and synthesizing information – statistics, best practices, field experience, traffic operation, and physical attributes of the roadway network – into a cohesive documented approach. The project team was compromised of diverse individuals each with their own expertise and point of view. This team was able to overcome “language barriers” and conduct several debrief meetings after major snowstorm accidents forced the team to re-evaluate their emergency response system.

When asked about successful teams and leadership, Loveland Fire Rescue Authority, Captain Greg Gilbert said, “Successful teams require conflict. Leadership requires trust. Trust comes from competence, character and vision.” Leadership is central to the successes brought about by the team’s commitment to improve safety and traffic operations surrounding traffic incidents. Firefighters are now trained to work in coordination with engineers and assume a leadership role when appropriate.

To read the full article, click here

Editor’s Note: If you have a particular topic of interest you would like to see ACEC Colorado cover in upcoming blogs, please email us at with your suggestions.