Alumni World: Course, Leadership for Engineers

They developed the new online course Leadership for Engineers, which engineers all over the world can follow free of charge from January 2016. TU alumni Pieter Ligthart (Russell Reynolds Associates) and Stefaan Rodts (McKinsey) on their passion for leadership.

How did you hit upon the idea to develop a free online course on leadership?
S: “We felt that TU Delft is great at training technical experts, but most of your leadership skills are learnt outside the classroom. So we wanted to get fifty talented students together for a weekend to prepare them for working life. We took this idea to Dirk Jan van den Berg, former president of the Executive Board.
He told us to think about how we could format this idea in a MOOC (massive open online course). This seemed like a good challenge to us, so we tackled it together with TPM professor Hans de Bruijn.
P: “Worldwide 40 billion euros a year are spent on leadership training courses, almost all of which are group sessions. This is a first step in exploring alternative ways of inspiring people to think about themselves.”


Pieter Ligthart

Who is the MOOC intended for?
P: “Engineers all over the world can participate. A quarter of the 100 most successful companies have an engineer as CEO. Of course this number should be higher. If you were to equip all engineers with leadership skills, you would train more complete, all-round engineers.”
S: “We already have 9,000 enrolments, from 150 different nationalities, and we have the capacity for many more! The course is suitable for all ages, because you are continually having to make choices about what you want, where you are and where you want to be in your development.”

What do people learn in this MOOC?
S: “In the first part you learn how important the context is in which leaders have to operate and how complex problems in the world and business are. The second part is about yourself, where your strengths and passions lie; it teaches a number of skills such as focusing on the positive and how you can change your own behaviour.”
P: “The third part is about leadership models. We introduce sustainable leadership, because we feel this is particularly needed in this day and age. Such leaders don’t only think about themselves, but all the stakeholders. They are good at building relationships and in systems thinking – seeing the bigger picture. The MOOC closes with a model that helps you make your career choices.”

What made you as applied physics alumni keen to contribute to this?
P: “Engineers have a great deal to offer to the world. For example, leading the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy resources. Part of the problem is technical, but getting people on board is just as important”
S: “It’s a great misunderstanding that leadership is a soft skill. We want to show people that you can work on your own leadership skills in a very level-headed, concrete and inspiring way.”


Stefaan Rodts

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